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ISTANBUL — Turkish Airlines aspires to fly 120 million passengers by 2023, an increase of 60% over the 75 million passengers it carried last year.
But in an interview here Tuesday, Turkish chairman and CEO Ilker Ayci steered clear of discussing the carrier’s most obvious route to gaining so much traffic — by denting the global connecting networks of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad.
“There is not only, let’s say, Gulf competitors. There are West competitors and there are East competitors,” Ayci said while being interviewed by the BBC’s Aaron Heslehurst on the stage of Turkish Airlines’ annual Corporate Club Conference. “But the biggest competitor of Turkish Airlines is Turkish Airlines.”
His comments came in response to a direct question by Heslehurst about whether Turkish planned to take on the three major Gulf carriers. Turkish, with its ideally located Istanbul base, already flies to 126 countries, the most of any carrier in the world. In April, Turkish moved its hub from Ataturk to the new Istanbul Airport, which has a current capacity of 90 million annual passengers and expansion plans to increase capacity to 200 million by 2027.
Among Turkish’s 75.2 million passengers last year, 23.4 million were in transit between two international destinations.
By comparison, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad carried 58.6 million, 29.2 million and 17.8 million passengers, respectively, in their most recent fiscal years.
Ayci said the key for Turkish to successfully meet its ambitious growth goals is to provide unmatched service.
“That is the secret of Turkish Airlines — give the felling that you are at home,” he said.