How has Turkish Airlines dealt with COVID-19?

By Wajeeh Qureshi | May 3, 2020

Turkish Airlines is an industry leader in commercial aviation boasting an unparalleled global reach to 315 destinations worldwide. However, the ongoing pandemic has brought its services to a standstill and moved the spotlight away from the giant. 

Boeing 737-8 MAX ©Anna Zvereva

From late February, Turkey’s national flag carrier began withdrawing regular flights to affected countries like mainland China and Iran. The flight suspension wave quickly engulfed the Middle East, Asia and eventually Europe. Finally, all domestic and international flights stopped, leaving the Sabiha Gokcen airport non-functional as on 28 March.

Extension notice

However, it still remains the third busiest airline in Europe — according to Eurocontrol (followed by Lufthansa and Qatar) scoring 109 movements each day — as recorded on 27 April. Though, these are mostly cargo flights transporting medical and food supplies to and from the country.

Amid fears of the virus, the carrier recently announced a third extension to its resumption of flight operations; the latest one being appointed till 28 May.

Where do other Airlines stand?

An important factor to consider is how other global carriers have fared in the crisis as compared to Turkish airlines. Emirates has already hinted at delaying international flights till July — that too is subject to further extension as seen fit by its administration. Etihad’s operations also remain suspended because of the UAE government’s travel restrictions. 

Qatar Airways is actually the only Middle Eastern airline that is running international flight operations, albeit several constraints. It is still transporting passengers between major hubs like London, Paris and Sydney, but the flight schedules are very volatile.

Ramadan Greetings © Turkish Airlines

Spirit of the Holy Month

As millions of people from the Islamic faith are observing the holy month of Ramadan; Turkish airlines ran a massive flight operation in late April, repatriating almost 25 000 nationals (mostly from Germany).

The official company statement was:

Thousands of citizens who went abroad as tourists, students, or temporary workers will be able to join their families by the holy month of Ramadan

The carrier is also eying mid-May to resume some domestic flights to facilitate travel for the upcoming Eid festival. Such a step although will require prior approval from the government, but will be a relief for the country’s economy and citizens.  

Return of the Giants

Complete recovery for commercial aviation will also heavily rely on some of its largest players, particularly Emirates and Turkish airlines. Since both carriers have support from their respective governments, they will most likely power through the current crisis. It is only a question of when flight operations and hence recovery begins.

Evidently, Turkish Airlines has displayed greater urgency in restoring operations, as the airline looks to recover its damaged flight share to avoid further financial loss. 

How do you think things will pan out for Turkish airlines?

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