Turkish Airlines expects passenger numbers from Dubai to grow by more than 9 per cent this year after curtailing its operations last summer because of runway repairs at Dubai International Airport.
Despite reducing its flights from 14 to 11 a week for 80 days last year, Turkish carried 336,746 passengers from Dubai to Istanbul, reflecting a growth of 9 per cent year-on-year.
“This year growth will be better than last year,” said Emre Ismailoglu, Turkish Airlines’ general manager for Dubai and Northern Emirates.
“We have two flights daily, but last year there was construction at the airport, so we decreased our flights from 14 to 11 per week. This year there’s no problem.”
From Abu Dhabi, Turkish Airlines grew its passengers by almost 4 per cent last year. The airline operates four flights per week from the capital.
He did not provide expected growth figures from Abu Dhabi.
Turkish Airlines growth ambition mimics the trajectory of Arabian Gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. The airline aims to almost double its fleet to 450 aircraft by 2023, up from its current 263. By the end of this year, it plans to operate 300 jets.
However, Mr Ismailoglu ruled out the possibility that Turkish Airlines would be soon operating the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the A380.
In March, it was reported that Turkish Airlines was considering the lease of six A380s from Malaysian Airlines. That would have given the carrier significantly increased operational capacity without the hefty financial outlay of buying the planes.
“It’s incorrect. Ataturk airport is not suitable for this aircraft [the A380]. Now they are not buying this type of aircraft,” said Mr Ismailoglu.
The double-decker aircraft requires special gates. Not all airports across the world are able to accommodate it.
Mr Ismailoglu added that Turkish Airlines growth is currently limited by the capacity of Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, but the country is preparing to open Istanbul’s new airport in 2017.
The US$35 billion airport will have six runways, 500 aircraft parking spots and capacity to accommodate 150 million passengers a year.
“It is hard to grow at Ataturk airport because of the lack of capacity, so we need a third one,” said Mr Ismailoglu.
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