Syrian skies closed but flag carrier not worried
Hamdi Topçu (R), the chairman of Turkish Airlines, visits Hurgada to mark the companies debut flight to the , the Egyptian city. Turkish Airlines will launch some 32 more destinations by the end of this year, the chairman says. AA photoWithdrawing from the Syrian skies has burdened Turkish Airlines with extra costs but will not inflate ticket prices, according to Chairman Hamdi Topçu.
“The former routes passing through Syria were the shortest ones, but the [new routes] from the north or south of Syria do not change much,” Doğan news agency quoted him as telling journalists during the launch of the national flag carrier’s first flight to Egypt’s Hurgada. “The costs of the new routes are also not noteworthy so this will not be reflected in ticket prices.”
The Turkish government openly taking a stand against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against rebel forces has put Ankara at odds with Damascus.
The Turkish military was put into a “high state of readiness” after a Syrian shell killed five Turks in Akçakale following an incident where Damascus shot down a Turkish jet in June, killing two pilots.
“The government authority has warned us that the Syrian route is not safe,” said Topçu. “Of course this is a cost. But security is more important than anything.”
Still, the airline’s problems with Syria are not limited to changing routes. Some $9 million belonging to the company has been blocked by a Syrian bank. “This does not mean that our money has disappeared,” Topçu said, adding that the blocking move was mutual and the initial amount of $18 million was cut to half due to the efforts of the Turkish Embassy to Damascus.
Umut Oran, a vice president of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has criticized the airline’s actions regarding the problems in Syria, along with Iran and Iraq.
Topçu accused Oran of carelessly servicing papers “to show his performance within the party”.
“I do not think that this is the official view of the CHP,” he said.
The airline is experiencing money transaction problems with Iran due to Western sanctions on the Islamic republic.
“[Oran] says in other parliamentary question that we have washed out money in Iran. ‘And Hamdi Topçu went secretly to Iran after this sunk money,’ he says. Yes, I have gone to Iran. I had a rendezvous with the Iranian vice president and went there,” Topçu said. “I met with the Central Bank [officials] and some 50 million Euros of Turkish Airlines money was transferred by then. We have overcome some problems but some still continue.”
The chairman also said the company was experiencing transaction problems in other countries as well.
Oran’s other claims include an amount of money in Iraq in 1990 before the war and U.S. invasion. “I came to this post in 2003,” Topçu said. We may also lose money, this is the trade business. Trade always has some risks.”
The company plans to increase its number of planes to 350 in 2020 from around their current 200, he told Anatolia news agency in an interview.
“Turkish Airlines has reached its 2015 goals as of 2011. Some 10 years ago no one could think that [the airline] would fly to New York three times a day, to London eight times a day.”
The company plans to launch 32 new destinations by the end of this year.