What turned out to be an extraordinary year in Turkish Airlines' history last year shouldn't be used as a gauge for the airline's future success, CEO Bilal Ekci told Aviation Business today.
"Last year, we increased passengers by 3 million over 2015 but the growth was shadowed by the financial numbers. However, results for 2017, will prove the previous year is not the norm. We expect to return to 10 percent growth annually very soon, probably by 2018," said Ekci.
A tepid political climate and attacks at its hub in Istanbul forced Turkish Airlines to post its first loss in 17 years in 2016. However, the airline notched a record third quarter this year with $939 million in profits, growing total profits in the nine months of 2017 to $956 million.
"There are no security concerns any more, and passenger numbers will increase by an expected 6 million over last year. The numbers are beginning to show it as our load factor has grown by six percent, and we're hopeful we will end the year in profit as well," he said.
The airline is currently decided on a widebody aircraft tender issued to both Boeing and Airbus concerning the US-made 787-9 Dreamliner and the European manufacturer's A350-900.
"Istanbul's third airport, will come online next year and will change the game. With traffic growing we foresee the need for more widebody aircraft," said Ekci.
Next year the airline plans to introduce a number of new destinations to its network including Samarkand in Uzbekistan as well as in Sierra Leone in Africa. "We're looking strongly at India and China to grow, as well as in Africa," said Ekci.
"We have a very good network and fly to over 120 countries, the most in the world. That and the huge domestic market we have gives us a bigger advantage than other airlines," he added.