Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Turkish Airlines makes Bangkok its regional hub

Turkish Airlines is moving to consolidate Bangkok as its regional hub as it aggressively expands in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

‘‘While we are hopefulwecan strike a deal with THAI later this year,wedo have alternatives to support our growth in this region,’’ says Adnan Aykac, general manager for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Istanbul-based carrier is counting on Thai Airways International (THAI) as its strategic partner to begin its foray into the Australia-New Zealand market.

The airline plans to extend its non-stop flight from Istanbul to Bangkok through to Ho Chi Minh City in October, while Kuala Lumpur and Manila are also on the radar screen for flight extension, possibly next year.

It hopes to increase its Istanbul-Bangkok flights from daily to twice daily later this year if its plan to extend services to Australia-New Zealand partnering with THAI materialises.

Adnan Aykac, general manager for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, said yesterday that negotiations with THAI to form a code-share partnership began about a year ago and had been slow.

Turkish Airlines would switch its passengers to THAI-operated flights to Australia under the plan, but THAI does not see any urgency to co-operate.

"While we are hopeful we can strike a deal with THAI later this year, we do have alternatives to support our growth in this region," he said.

The airline sees Australia as a lucrative market not adequately covered and wants to exploit THAI's extensive Australian routes, before entering the region itself.

Turkish Airlines transfers about 30,000 of its passengers a year to THAI's Australian network, and Turkish has had a sales office in Australia for 15 years.

He said a code-share deal with THAI would result in Turkish Airlines feeding some 40,000 passengers a year to THAI's Australian-bound flights.

The airline wishes to work with THAI on Australian operations although the Australian government signed its first air services agreement with Turkey this week allowing direct flights.

Turkish Airlines bucked the trend of slumping traffic through Bangkok last year, when domestic political unrest, the global downturn and H1N1 flu hurt the airline business. It claimed a 5% increase in traffic through Bangkok in 2009, raising its load factor by 6% from 2008 to an average of 80%.

The airline expects to increase these numbers as it strengthens brand awareness in the Thai market. It has budgeted 30 million baht for advertising and promotion this year, perhaps the largest sum for a foreign carrier in Thailand.

The airline allocated US$70 million for advertising worldwide this year, 50% more than 2009. "We hope 2010 will be way different (in growth figures) for us (in Thailand)," he said.


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