Turkish Air CEO to Add U.S. Frequencies, Targets Atlanta

Turkish Airlines plans to offer extra flights to Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles while adding a service to Atlanta as the fast-expanding carrier seeks to feed more U.S. traffic through its Istanbul hub.

While Turkish Air, as Turk Hava Yollari AS is known, already has a global network, it lacks the frequencies needed to lure business passengers on some major long-haul routes, Chief Executive Officer Temel Kotil said today in an interview.

“We’re already flying so many international routes -- more than any other airline -- but the frequencies are few on any given route,” Kotil said during the ISTAT Europe aviation industry conference in Istanbul. “We want to build those up.”

Turkish Airlines serves 216 locations worldwide, with its six existing U.S. routes also including New York, Boston and Houston, though even the former has only three flights a day. An “open skies” air services treaty means there’s no access issue for the carrier, which will begin operations to San Francisco next April and is seeking board approval for Atlanta services, Kotil said, adding that it “could also add more destinations.”

The CEO is seeking to exploit Istanbul’s geographical position to establish the city as an inter-continental transfer hub for travel between Europe and the U.S. and Asia, mirroring the strategies of top Gulf carriers located further southeast.

Turkish Air is expanding its fleet at a rate of almost three planes a month after ordering 117 aircraft from Airbus Group NV and 95 from Boeing Co. With the focus on higher frequencies and sufficient capacity already coming on stream, Kotil said that there’s “no decision” at this point on whether to add either of the manufacturers’ two largest models -- the A380 superjumbo and 747-8.

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