The increasing number of transit airway passengers via Turkey, a key element in the rapid growth of national carrier Turkish Airlines, has also whet the appetite of British Airways, which is seeking a larger share in the market.
Istanbul has become an important connecting hub in its region, a top executive of British Airways said during an Oct. 14 meeting in Istanbul.
“Not only has the number of people visiting Turkey increased, the number of transit passengers has reached a great number in recent years,” said Gavin Halliday, general manager for the company’s Europe and Africa operations, during a press conference.
The official data of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) verifies Halliday’s statements. The total number of the transit passengers arriving Istanbul reached 18 million last year, and the city ranks top in hosting transit passengers on the Asia-Europe corridor.
Frankfurt came second with 11 million passengers in the same period, followed by Cairo with 8 million, according to the data.
At the meeting to mark British Airways’ 65th year in Turkey, Halliday said, “The international routes and the passengers preferences are a change we aim to serve with the best quality for them.”
Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, one of the two in the city, ranked as the eighth busiest airport in the world, reaching 31.14 million travelers by the end of last year. It followed London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle, Frankfurt, Spain’s Barajas, Amsterdam, Leonardo Da Vinci and Munich airports, according to Turkey’s General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ).
The total number of international passengers arriving to Turkey has reached 47 million, breaking another record by 13.4 percent as of the end of September this year compared with the first nine months of 2010, according to DHMI.
Turkish Airlines, which benefits most from transit traffic in the region, expects to handle 35 million passengers in 2011, according to Chief Executive Temel Kotil.
To celebrate the 65th anniversary, British Airways is offering a discount price of 65 pounds for Turkish passengers to London if they buy tickets between Oct. 17 and 23. Passengers will be able to use the ticket between October 2011 and March 31, 2012.
Operating 21 weekly roundtrip flights between Istanbul and London, British Airways carried approximately 64,000 passengers on the route as of the end of last year.
Halliday said the company was ready to invest nearly 5 billion pounds next year to modernize aircraft, upgrade technology and interior decor, and increase entertainment and catering services.