Air Transport World

Turkish delight

Profitable THY, riding Turkey's dynamic economy and rising demand from leisure and business travelers, nears privatization

ISTANBUL-It was 1923 when the revered father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, declared: "The future is in the air..." Ten years later, Turkish Airlines inaugurated service, with three weekly flights between Ankara and Istanbul -a distance of 220 mi.-using five tiny aircraft with a total of 28 seats.

Aviation has changed vastly since then and Ataturk's vision has been confirmed, particularly in regard to aspiring Turk Hava Yollari (THY), as the national carrier is known at home, Soaring on the winds of a dynamic Turkish economy and accelerating demand for leisure and business travel, again-profitable THY is set for partial privatization by November. The move had been stalled in a political holding pattern since an abortive IPO in 1990.

But the current government, led by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, finally broke the logjam. Although state-controlled, the airline receives no direct financial subsidies and operates as an independent government corporation.

Parallel with partial privatization, in a local market far from saturation, THY is preparing to launch a lower-cost, Ankara-based regional airline in the fall. It will complement services from THY's main Istanbul hub and allow more focus on its growing international network.

Rounding out the packed agenda are two other major projects:

* Lagging construction is nearly complete on a sorely needed 65,000-sq. -m overhaul and maintenance hangar for Turkish Airlines Technic, large enough to handle two Airbus A340s or two Boeing 747s at once.

* Finishing touches are being put to the expansion of the Flight Training Center opened two years ago at Istanbul, already equipped with 737, Avro RJlOO and RJ85 simulators. …

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