War in the sky over the Atlantic

War in the sky over the Atlantic

FATİH ÇEKİRGE fcekirge@hurriyet.com.tr
While we are trying to cope with voice recordings, there is a merciless war going on over the Atlantic. This is a war of billions of dollars; it is brutal. It is a fight for the sky. Let me explain:

The other day I had lunch with the head of the executive committee of Turkish Airlines (THY), Hamdi Topçu, and Press Counselor Ali Genç. Topçu told me about their new projects and the future of THY. He is hopeful for Turkey. While he was giving me the reasons for this hope I received the clues of this unbelievable war in the sky.

And after some research, I found the facts. Not in full detail because of strategic reasons, but here is a summary: There is a “transportation cake” of billions of dollars in the sky. Istanbul has become the “transit center” of this cake. Imagine that the 2014 turnover of THY affiliates has reached $16 billion.

This figure is the biggest first or second in Turkey. There is such a cake in the sky. To share this cake, there are alliances formed over the Atlantic. Those that are left out of this, those that cannot cope, are bound to collapse.

This is the ruthless question of the war: Who will carry the most passengers? Who will take those routes?

Well, because Istanbul has become a transit center, will they allow Turkey to eat this billion dollar cake easily? To better understand the competition, the situation in the world should be reviewed.

EUROPE: Apart from German, British and French airlines, many airline companies have collapsed. These three have bought the sunken ones such as Swiss and Spanish airlines. 

USA: It’s the same situation in the U.S. The major airline companies have bought smaller and troubled ones. Thus, three major airlines each are left on both sides of the Atlantic.

GOAL: To share the enormous cake over the Atlantic, and later indeed the East… The most critical aspect here is that when you open a route to a country or continent, the most important issue is how to transfer your passengers to other countries or cities. Ground services and the transfer of your passengers to other planes are other issues. If countries that have allied with each other do not give you this opportunity, you cannot be there. You cannot fly those routes.

GULF EFFECT: Six major airline companies at both ends of the Atlantic reached a deal but then a serious competition rose from the Gulf: Emirates, ETIHAD and Qatar. They bought large airplanes to challenge the market. If they are not allowed, there is another problem. They buy those billion dollar planes from these countries. For this reason, there was a silence toward the Gulf.

How will the Atlantic-Europe-Asia-Middle East-Africa market be shared?

TURKEY: THY has made serious progress in Europe and Africa. It has become an airline flying to the highest number of destinations in the world. In Germany alone, Lufthansa flies to 21 domestic routes, THY flies 12 routes. As of August this figure will be 17.

THY has made a move to increase its flights in the Atlantic route, to the biggest market, the U.S. For this, it has invested in wide-bodied planes. However, the support for transit flights for its passengers never arrives. In this wild competition, THY has opened new routes, including Atlanta and Boston. It even decides to open routes to Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba. It decides to fly its transit passenger itself.

THY says, “if you don’t fly my passengers, I will fly them myself.”

This is the war for the “sky cake.” And, this is only a summary.

Fatih Çekirge is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb 28. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.