Turkish Airlines yet to formally apply for new routes into Australia

Istanbul, Turkey - September 3, 2015 : Turkish Airlines planes are getting for their next flights in Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Following a spectacular gala dinner in Melbourne last week to celebrate the (seemingly) imminent launch of Turkish Airlines into Australia, the minister’s office for infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government said the airline has not formally applied for new routes.

    “Turkish Airlines are already entitled to operate a total of up to seven services per week to Australia (between the four major gateways) under current bilateral arrangements, subject to meeting safety, security and licensing requirements,” a spokeswoman for the infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government Minister, Catherine King, said.

    “These critical regulatory processes will take many months to complete before services could commence to Australia.

    At this stage, Turkish airlines have not applied to Australian aviation authorities to operate services to Australia.

    “Australian aviation officials earlier this month received a request from the Turkish Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for initial discussions on updating air services arrangements between our two countries.

    “We look forward to these discussions shortly with the Türkiye DGCA, after completing consultation with our stakeholders.”

    Chairman of Turkish Airlines, Ahmet Bolat. Image: Zach Havard

    For an airline to attain a new route, respective governments must first achieve what is known as an ‘Air Service Agreement’ (ASA) – a bilateral agreement to allow international commercial air services between signatories.

    Apart from the more obvious reasons that a country might want to achieve an ASA (like increasing tourist numbers from said counterpart), other factors are at play, including the lucrative freight industry which can account for up to 30 per cent of some airline’s revenues.

    Speaking at last week’s gala dinner, Victorian public transport minister, Ben Carrol touched on the importance of freight. “We also know that an important part of the aircraft is underneath of it and for freight opportunities, with Victoria being the food and fibre capital, being the defence capital, being the advanced manufacturing capital, there is an enormous amount of opportunity,” he said.

    Turkish Airlines’ gala dinner in Melbourne on Friday. Image: Zach Havard

    Complicating Turkish Airlines’ deal more is the fact they currently must fly through Singapore, meaning a third nation becomes involved in negotiations.

    Professor Dr. Rico Merkert, the deputy director of transport studies and professor of supply chain management at the University of Sydney business school, believes Singapore would be more than up for the agreement.

    “So that involves Singapore and they’re usually very open to this, because they have the hub, that’s the whole idea of them,” Merkert, told Travel Weekly. 

    “Their business model is to improve their connectivity, so they will be very open to the idea.”

    Asked on what factors may be slowing this part of the agreement, Merkert said, “That may have to do with the fact that there is a bit of competition on that sector already coming from Singapore Airlines and the other guys.”

    “So that’s why they [Australian government] seem to be hesitant.

    “And that’s why the Turkish are probably trying to work out what’s what exactly is happening before they announce something.”

    A spokesperson from Turkish Airlines told Travel Weekly, ” We are in the final stages of negotiations and look forward to making the necessary license applications once we are ready to do so.”

    Qatar’s recently blocked application may strike fear

    Turkish Airlines needn’t look far to find cause to fear the approval of new routes when they do get negotiations underway, this month Qatar Airlines had a request for 21 new routes blocked by Minister King’s office.

    Nationals MP and opposition spokesman on tourism, Kevin Hogan, told the Australian Financial Review that he was disappointed with the decision.

    “I strongly support competition in the sector and more slots for airlines like Qatar would be beneficial to our slow recovery in international tourism,” Hogan said.

    While there is no doubt Turkish Airlines fully intend to fly 14 flights direct between Istanbul and Sydney/Melbourne each week in the future, there is still a way to go before the airline touches down on Aussie shores.

    Competition likely to outweigh SAF concerns for years to come

    Professor Dr. Rico Merkert said he would be surprised to see carriers cut flights to Australia due to SAF concerns because of how competitive the market is.

    Last week, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the Australian Aviation Authority said that international airlines could cut flights to the country in years to come due to the levels of pollution curated as a by product of long haul routes.

    “I would be surprised that that happens in the short term given the yields are still fantastic,” Merkert, said.

    “It would be crazy to pull out at this point in time, so I don’t see this happening in the foreseeable future, maybe in ten years time it could be a different story. “

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