Türkiye’s national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) is celebrating its 90th year of service, which started with only five aircraft with just 28 seats before evolving into a global powerhouse that today boasts an unparalleled flight network and fleet.
The transformation has seen THY turn into a company that now flies to most countries with a more than 400 aircraft fleet. And this growth trajectory shows no signs of slowing down, as the carrier plans to double its fleet size in the coming years.
Founded on May 20, 1933, under the name of “State Airlines Administration” as a department of the Defense Ministry, Turkish Airlines started its journey with only 24 employees, consisting of seven pilots, eight machinists, eight civil servants and one radio operator.
This figure today stands at around 82,000, including personnel at its subsidiaries.
From a fleet that included two five-seat King Birds, two four-seat Junkers F-13 and one 10-seat ATH-9, Turkish Airlines today features 415 aircraft. In contrast, it had 100 aircraft in 2006, before this figure doubled in 2012.
It today ranks among the top 10 companies with the largest aircraft fleet in the world. But, given its size, it also operates one of the youngest and most modern fleets globally.
From its first international flight to Athens in 1947, its network abroad today covers 344 points in 129 countries and five continents. This makes it the airline that flies to the most countries and international destinations in the world, as well as the company that offers the most links between countries around the globe.
Flying to three continents on its 50th anniversary in 1983 with a fleet of 30 aircraft and a capacity of just over 4,000 seats, Turkish Airlines ended that hallmark year by carrying 2.5 million passengers and 30,000 tons of cargo.
The 2000s were marked by uninterrupted growth and rapid fleet and flight network expansion. Turkish Airlines firmly marched toward a milestone of 80 million passengers before the coronavirus outbreak, which forced it to ground aircraft and end 2020 with just 28 million passengers.
It remained in relatively good shape compared to its global peers. Moreover, it enjoyed a rebound to fly some 44.8 million passengers throughout 2021 as the travel industry returned from the fallout of the pandemic. Yet it lagged behind the 75.2 million and 74.3 million served in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The carrier achieved a complete rebound and managed to serve about 82 million passengers in 2022, a figure the company seeks to lift to 85 million this year.
The company 2022 announced a profit of $2.7 billion, which it said was a record in Europe’s aviation history. Turkish Airlines failed to announce profits only twice over the last two decades, namely after terrorist attacks in 2016 and during the pandemic in 2020.
Marking the anniversary, THY Chairperson Ahmet Bolat said the carrier is continuing its journey that started 90 years ago at an uninterrupted pace, stressing the company’s contributions to Türkiye’s economy.
Bolat said they aim to upgrade their fleet to 435 aircraft by the end of the year. “I am full of faith that our 2033 goals will also accelerate this decisive rise,” he noted.
Bolat referred to the carrier’s 10-year strategic growth plan unveiled last week that foresees the company flying 170 million passengers.
In a surprise announcement, Bolat said Turkish Airlines was set to order 600 new aircraft in June, with deliveries to be spread over 10 years, increasing the carrier’s fleet to 810 planes by 2033.
Such an order, if confirmed, would be the largest in the industry’s history by a single airline, eclipsing a record order by Air India for 470 Airbus and Boeing planes in December.
The surprise announcement spells what marks the fourth mega-deal in a few months. From Air India to Ireland’s Ryanair and a new national airline in Saudi Arabia, a handful of carriers have placed firm or provisional orders for 700 jets.
The carrier was named “Best Airline In Europe,” “Top-10 International Airline,” “Five Star Global Airline,” “Best Airline Of Eastern Europe,” and “Top-3 Global Airlines” by international institutions.
The carrier flew about 6.5 million passengers in April, an increase of 31% versus a year ago. In January-April, it managed to lift its passengers by 33.6% year-over-year to 23.6 million.
Meanwhile, the company last week also said it aims to add 10,000 new employees in 2023. Turkish Airlines eventually seeks to bring the number of its employees to 150,000 by 2033.