MURAT YETKİN > Turkish Airlines to keep its alcoholic drinks policy

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There are two debates going on in the same framework nowadays in Turkey regarding its national carrier Turkish Airlines (THY). One of them is a restriction put on alcoholic drinks for some domestic and international flights and the other one is about the new design for the outfits of cabin crews; both are debated in the modern lifestyle context.

Some critics found the proposed designs too “conservative” because the skirts for stewardesses fell to the knees and there is a small cap on top of their heads, which critics and some columnists think resemble a symbolic fez and shows the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) “desire to return to Ottoman times.” The debate heated up further when THY announced it had stopped serving alcohol in a number of domestic and international flights. THY already applies a no alcoholic beverages policy to economy class passengers like most airlines in the world.

Drinking alcohol has always been a dividing line in predominantly Muslim Turkish society. Those who adopt a secular way of life drink and observant Muslims do not. And whenever a restriction on the use of alcohol is called into question the debate turns into a secularism argument the next second. It is true that especially under the AK Parti rule it became practically impossible to find a proper restaurant serving liquor in many Anatolian towns, mainly because of social pressure. But the question is whether THY, as one of the most successful brand names of Turkey is trying to impose a lifestyle on passengers with its new crew outfits and restrictions on alcoholic drinks.

“The decisions have nothing to do with secularism or with politics,” says Hamdi Topçu, the CEO of THY. “They are totally commercial ones. The outfits that appeared in the media were leaked from the workshop of one of the designers, which we have already rejected; it would not be possible to work in the planes with such outfits. We haven’t yet decided on the design. On the [topic of] alcoholic drinks, my job is to make this airline a more efficient and profitable one.”

In January 2013, THY saw an increase in its international passengers by 34 percent compared to 2012, reaching some 3 million passengers. Under Topçu, it has increased its turnover from $1.2 billion to $13 billion in the last 10 years, with a 20 percent growth in the economic-crisis-hit year of 2012 when it was rewarded as the best airline in Europe.

So, Topçu explains the economy of it: “Out of some 220 destinations for 200 we have no change in our standard services policy. For the rest we decided to go out of routine and restrict alcoholic drinks due to the advice of the host country and obtain great benefits that some other airlines lack out of this shift. For domestic flights we only lifted the services in which there has been no demand for liquors anyway; I have to consider the load and fuel as well. There are private airlines flying to those destinations and they do not serve liquor already. Plus, there is the security factor. Do you know that it is debated in international aviation circles a total ban on alcohol, like tobacco is debated?”

No, that I did not know, but with a short search on the web, it is possible to read literature on that debate; there are airlines who discuss totally lifting alcoholic drinks from onboard, including the sales of it.

“Such stories could only be in the benefit of some of our lesser international rivals,” Topçu concludes; “The big ones know the realities and THY qualities. We will keep our policy as it is.”


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Notice on comments

mara mcglothin

2/21/2013 7:08:15 PM

They surely mean "NO COMPLIMENTARY" alcohol policy to economy class passengers???? I don't know where you are flying, but in the USA you can buy a drink on any flight lasting over 50 minutes. I also have been served, free of charge in coach class on THY international flights from Chicago to Istanbul for years. and before that free alcohol on THY from NYC to Istanbul. Surely these people recognize that you can obtain the policies of any airline by one click of your mouse?

Blue Dotterel

2/20/2013 4:46:16 PM

"THY already applies a no alcoholic beverages policy to economy class passengers like most airlines in the world. " You mean domestic flights, I suppose. Whenever, I have flown economy on International flights, alcohol has been served when desired.

cezer "çapulcu" skonore

2/19/2013 7:00:56 PM

THY is the image of the AKP govt. It flies more countries than any other airline in the world and carries that image on their planes and in their cabins. The alcohol move is not a response to passenger's demands or so, but to respond to the increasing alcohol consumption in Turkey. Believe or not, people (per capita) are consuming more alcohol in Turkey today than they did 10-20 years ago. And, the consumption of nontraditional alcoholic beverages has increased sharply in recent years.

Coskan U

2/19/2013 6:38:55 PM

Anyone with half an IQ knows that alcohol restriction and covered women are the initial steps in Islamization of a nation. Why be surprised about the new outfits when there is a Fez wearing photo of Topcu on the web, that few years ago THY staff even sacrificed a camel on airport tarmac. Just like the Imams or families who tell women/girls they will go to hell or lose family honor if they are not covered-all in the name of religion. Backward traditions is what separates a Muslim from an Islamist

OZman Cometh

2/19/2013 5:48:26 PM

Would you all like some wine with your whining? Talk about conspiracy theorists! It is business and you have a choice, vote with your feet if you feel affronted. I book flights for convenience and destination not for what food or drink is served.

mara mcglothin

2/19/2013 3:35:08 PM

Spot on COSKAN Does anyone know what the first class ticket from Chicago to Istanbul cost on THY and other airlines. IT is between 6 and 7000usd. For that you should get alcohol and what ever else you would like. Sometimes I think I would trade a bit of the bubbly for some air conditioning.

Johanna Dew

2/19/2013 2:19:17 PM

On request of? The territory of the THY airplanes serve under Turkish jurisdiction. According Tokyo Convention: 'from the moment when power is applied for the purpose of takeoff until the moment when the landing run ends'. From Istanbul to Tehran and vice versa. The couple of hrs on the airport in Tehran...they can seal the liquor then. Qatar airways serve liquor to ME countries. Take your pick.

Rimon Tree

2/19/2013 10:29:16 AM

@ COSCAN I could not agree with you more! The point Muslims always miss is free choice! it's in the system of the religion that is HAS to be imposed on everybody as a religious command. They cannot understand that everybody can decide for himself if he wants to have alcohol or not without risking being chased for it! It is so sad!

frank reynolds

2/19/2013 6:04:12 AM

K'ohl is an Arabic word for antimony sulfide, a fine powder used as eye make-up in the Middle East. It's been doing weird and wonderful thingsin liquid form to eyes ever since. I think an idea for THY might be to offer a sachet to boarding passengers by burkha-dressed flight attendants along with a bottle of ayran. A sprinkle of mint for passengers from the colony in the Med. Except Messi and Kobi Bryant, of course. Just give them ice-cream......and millions of dollars.

Coskan U

2/19/2013 5:22:01 AM

Correction again. In most US airlines economy class, you pay $5-7, in business/first class where you already pay at least 4-5 times more for your ticket a couple of glasses of free wine is the least they can do. If you choose - that’s the point Islamists miss all the time-Choice. Topcu is an AKP tool and runs an airline that is half owned by the government, what do you expect him to say. Why don’t you do a short search on the web for Topcu’s Fez wearing photo, that should sum it up.
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