Exclusive Istanbul interview with Turkish Airlines Vice-President Mehmet Baspinar


Andrey KLIMENKO, BSNews Chief Editor
Alexey SOLOVIEV, Editor of BSNews Tourism Section and English Version
Tatiana GUCHAKOVA, BSNews Project Manager (Photo)

During the first decade of March 2013, being on visit to Istanbul on issues connected with our interaction with BSEC, we used this opportunity to visit headquarters of Turkish Airlines to record the exclusive interview with Mr. Mehmet BASPINAR, Vice President on Marketing and Sales in East Europe and the Balkans.

We understood, that to arrange an interview with top management of one of the largest world airlines is invariably anything but simple. But it became the reality thanks to joint actions of Mr. Serhat Fil, General Manager of the Turkish Airlines branch in Simferopol, and diplomats of the Consulate General of Ukraine in Istanbul ... So, do read.

From left: BSNews Chief Editor Andrei Klimenko, BSNews Tourism Section Editor Alexey Soloviev, Vice President on Marketing and Sales in Eastern Europe and the Balkans Mr.Mehmet Baspinar, Consul of Consulate General of Ukraine in Istanbul Gregory Boyko in the Turkish Airlines main office in Istanbul, March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

– Mr. Baspinar, Turkish Airlines has the official motto, which we saw flying to Istanbul. It is Globally Yours.  Thus, let’s start with global issue. We all know, that a lot of complex processes are talking place at the world airline market, especially in the latest years. How would you describe situation there?...

– You started with one of the most difficult questions... For me it is complicated to talk at the moment about all the global market, thus I’ll start with position of our company – Turkish Airlines at the world airline market.

Within the last 10 years our company experiences stable growth. At the moment, we can confidently say that Turkish Airlines are number 1 in the world regarding country-network – we fly to 98 countries. Regarding this factor Turkish Airlines are ahead of all the other airlines of the world. Of course, this is just one of a lot of numbers, but we can confidently say that the Turkish Airlines unique network is an accomplished reality in the world airline industry.

Vice President on Marketing and Sales in East Europe and the Balkans Mr. Mehmet Baspinar, the Turkish Airlines head office in Istanbul, March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

And one more component of our success is that Istanbul is a very important hub in the world.

As for the world airline industry, its state depends on the world financial situation. With respect to our region - Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and the Balkans - this part of the world is becoming more and more important for the global economy.

Recently the whole world more and more tends to face East, like it was in the past. Therefore, the Balkans, East Europe, including, Ukraine, as well as the Caucasus and Turkey are very important to the strategy of our company development. And the Black Sea, of course, is a very important part of this market segment. Economic potential of the Black Sea region and its contribution to the world economy becomes more and more significant. Thus, in my region our flights cover 14 countries,  from Iran to all the Black Sea countries. We have here good results.

Vice President on Marketing and Sales in Eastern Europe and the Balkans Mr. Mehmet Baspinar, the Turkish Airlines head office in Istanbul, March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

– Tell us, please, is our guess right, that growth at your destinations is very closely related with tourism development rate in Turkey? What is your estimation of share of tourists, which come for holidays to Turkey, in the passenger flow from the countries of your region?

In my opinion, both tourism itself, and the overall process of world economy and trade development - these are two very important factors for the airline development. You are right in saying that quite an important part of Turkish Airlines quantitative indicators at these destinations is exactly the flow of tourists. And it has a big potentialis there. You know, that last year 32 million tourists visited Turkey, which is quite a considerable number.

But as an airline, we, naturally, are interested not only in tourism and tourist potential of the region, but have, besides, a lot of other different market segments - ethnic traffic, people, coming for shopping, and students, and those who work and travel at the same time i.e. business travelers. They are also very important clients for our airline.

It seems that large number of your destinations creates great effect in combination with the excellent Ataturk Airport ... Probably a lot of transit passengers make transfer here in Istanbul? At least, as the result of our inconsiderable experience of flights through this airport we, still, can conclude this …

– It is really so. It is a very good question, and I can say that the transit passengers are very important for, so called, network carriers. Due to our network, Turkish Airlines numbers in the field of transit grow from year to year. It is necessary to say that in my region transit passengers bring us half of the numbers. As for my region - Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, it makes approximately 1.5 million.

For example, we have 40 thousand transit passengers from Simferopol. The tourist flow from this destination is about 80 thousand per year, so it means that 50% of them are transit passengers.

Thanks to our network development policy, its transit function improves from one year to the next. Last year, for example, we had our 35 flight destinations in Africa. And by the end of this year we, probably, will be world number 1 airline, regarding the number of African flight destinations.

We are ready to leave Ataturk Airport for the Crimea – behind us there is a long line of aircrafts ready for take-off . Istanbul, March 2013, Tatyana Guchakova, BSNewsBSNews

– Our next question is about Ukraine, which you have recently visited. We published the press release and, thus, know about your plans in Ukraine – the flights number will be increased by about 70%. Thus, the question is what is the company strategy regarding its destination countries. In principle, there can be two types of major strategies: 1) the company simply performs flights and carries passengers, and 2) company performs flights and develops some infrastructure projects in the countries, which are important for it. How would you describe the plans of your company for countries of your region for the next few coming years?

– We already have flights to 6 airports of Ukraine. All together we have 49 flights per week. We perform 16 flights from Istanbul to Kiev, 11 - to Odessa, 7 - to Simferopol, 7 - to Donetsk, 5 - to Dnepropetrovsk, 3 – to Lviv. And our plan is to increase these numbers by about 40%. But in order to achieve these plans, we will need to acquire permissions from the Civil Aviation authorities of Ukraine. And we need to find the necessary aircrafts.

Now our plans are in progress and we are waiting for the permission and solutions of the other questions in order to increase the flights frequency, and to find opportunities to open our new flights destinations in Ukraine. These could be Kharkov or some other destinations.

Besides, all over the world, in 98 countries, we have people, which work for us there. They are from these countries, the so-called local staff. About 50 Ukrainian citizens work in our offices in Ukraine. And my colleagues in Ukraine, as well as in the other countries, constantly search for the appropriate staff.

In recent times, our strategic goal - not only for Ukraine, but also for the whole Turkish Airlines network is an increase of the flights frequency. This concerns a lot of our regions. Now we operate about one thousand flights a day, and want to double this figure within the next 10 coming years. Such are our plans…

– Since we are economic journalists, and, in addition, provide economic consulting, then we can guess, that if the company grows quickly, then it could face serious problems regarding the company staff. Figuratively speaking, 5 years ago there were 100 pilots, while in 5 years term it already has 200 of them. Your business requires highly qualified staff. By what means you managed to add such a great number of pilots, engineers, aeronavigators?

- It is not my issue. But I think that you’ll see a lot today, when after our meeting you’ll visit our Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center. Of course, it is very difficult to find such trained personnel. But I know that company’s Board of Directors thinks about the “full package”, which includes not only aircraft park.

If you make some kind of product, you need equipment, offices, sales channels, human resources and, of course, capital. We, certainly, have human resources training plans. Now all this is in the process of active implementation. We have departments, which deal with selection, interviewing and training of different specialists.

Grand panorama of the Ataturk Airport opens up from the popular cafe in the Istanbul district of Florya. Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

- I guess about your answer to our next question, but it will be of interest to our readers. If you look at the structure of your aircrafts fleet, then, of course, one can see that this is one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world. But how come that almost exactly half of your fleet is Airbuses, while the other half is Boeings? It is the policy of the company - to work "equally" with the two aircraft manufacturers, or it happened by accident?

– As you understand, a lot of things are interconnected in this case. This is not my subject, thus I cannot provide a lot of details. But, it is, of course, the result of certain strategic decisions. We know that in the world there are two major aircraft manufacturing companies, thus, it is correct to work properly with both of them.

- Mr. Vice President, completing the interview, we always ask our conversation partner to say a few words about himself, if he, of course, wants to do this. And ask the question: "What else would you like to say to our readers?"

–  I would like to say that I am happy to work in such world known airline. I began my career in banking. And then I changed my opinion and I have been working for more than 20 years in the airline industry. This career gave me a lot. I can say that I am very happy that once I took such a decision.

By the way, thanks to such a decision I found my wife – she is from Ukraine.

I am very satisfied with region which I am responsible for. This region is perfectly very well situated in the world - especially the Balkans, Ukraine and the Caucasus. In combination with geographical situation of Istanbul, which  suits perfectly as a hub, a transportation node - I believe that this region will be even more  important for the world in a while.

From left: BSNews Chief Editor Andrei Klimenko, BSNews Tourism Section Editor Alexey Soloviev, Vice President on Marketing and Sales in East Europe and the Balkans Mr. Mehmet Baspinar, Consul of Consulate General of Ukraine in Istanbul Gregory Boyko in the Turkish Airlines main office in Istanbul, March 2013 Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

We, Turkish Airlines, declared that we'll maintain our service at the 5 stars level. There are the other 5-star airlines in the other regions of the world, but it's mostly in the East. While, there is practically none in the western part of the world. And Turkish Airlines will be the first 5-star airline in the western part of the world.

We have a lot of young and very ambitious staff. So we try to achieve the best results in our work.
I think that we are sure that all these dreams come true.

- Thank you and we wish you success and are on the way to see everything with our own eyes - how food is prepared for Turkish Airlines staff and passengers. It is especially of interest, as tomorrow we will fly from Istanbul to the Crimea ...

Turkish Airlines aircraft is coming to land at the Atatturk Airport of Istanbul, , March 2013 Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

In-flight meal is being prepared for all the passengers of Turkish Airlines. Production facility of catering company in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

In-flight meal is being prepared for all the passengers of Turkish Airlines. Production facility of catering company in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

In-flight food is being cooked for all the Turkish Airlines passengers. Production facility of catering company in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova,  BSNews

Simulators in the Flight Training Center of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

Simulators in the Flight Training Center of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

Simulators in the Flight Training Center of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. March 2013. Photo by Tatyana Guchakova, BSNews

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Turkish Airlines Info

Turkish Airlines (Türk Hava Yolları or THY) was established in 1933 with a fleet of five aircrafts. To date, the company possesses 207 passenger and cargo aircrafts, which makes it the fifth largest airline in the world. Turkish Airlines operates flights to 219 destinations (183 international and 36 domestic). In 2012, Turkish Airlines has provided services to more than 39 million passengers worldwide. This is one of the fastest growing airlines of the Star Alliance network.

For two consecutive years Turkish Airlines receives prestigious Skytrax award (consumer rating groups) in the Best European Airline category. The airline is also the winner of the Passengers Choice by Skytrax. In addition, Turkish Airlines was awarded for the best catering service, best in-flight food, the best premium economy class seats and has many other awards according to the Skytrax ratings and Skyscanner.

In Ukraine, Turkish Airlines offices are opened in Lvov, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Simferopol and Kiev.

 

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