Thanks to maintaining its staffing levels during pandemic, Turkish Airlines now managing to meet boom in summer travel demand
Istanbul Airport outperformed most of the largest European hubs not only in June but also since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Olivier Jankovec, director-general of the airports trade association ACI Europe.
Istanbul Airport was Europe’s busiest airport in June, welcoming a whopping 5.996 million passengers, and nearly overtook its pre-pandemic levels, according to ACI Europe data released last week.
“This primarily reflects the fact that Turkiye has followed much less restrictive approaches than other European states when it comes to lockdowns and travel restrictions,” Jankovec told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
He said the large size of the country’s domestic market was the second important driver behind the airport’s performance, as domestic air traffic was “clearly” much more resilient during the pandemic.
“Finally, Istanbul Airport benefits from its state-of-the-art facilities and quality infrastructure and services, coupled with a strong and ambitious home-based network airlines (Turkish Airlines), whose route network is diversified and truly global,” Jankovec said.
“Istanbul Airport’s check-in areas, baggage delivery processes, aircraft parking and taxi facilities, as well as providing convenience to our guests at every stage of their travel,increased its preferability,” Ahmet Bolat, the chairman of Turkish Airlines’ board and executive committee, has told Anadolu Agency.
Post-pandemic woes in Europe
On the crisis at many European airports due to delays, cancelations, and strikes, Jankovec said the sector’s players are scrambling to meet a boom in post-pandemic travel demand.
After being hit hard by the pandemic, air transport has seen a dynamic recovery since the start of spring, he said, noting how airports and airlines were caught off-guard when travel restrictions were lifted without advance notice in most European countries.
“At the same time, many airports but also ground-handing companies, which had reduced their workforce to be able to stay afloat, have found it extremely challenging to get people back to work at the airport,” Jankovec said.
It has been difficult to upscale facilities and services to match the sudden boom in air travel demand, he stressed.
Jankovec added that getting new staff working at airports takes time due to the need for security clearance as well as training.
“May and June were very difficult at some airports because of all these factors coming together, but the vast majority of passengers in Europe still flew without experiencing major disruptions,” Jankovec said, adding that the situation is improving gradually.
“I can assure you this is the top priority for all airports and all operational partners, airlines and ground handlers in particular,” Jankovec stressed.
Bolat also pointed out that in order to maintain liquidity and survive during the pandemic, industry players took a number of financial measures such as layoffs, which has now become a culprit behind the crisis in Europe.
Direct aviation jobs fell 21% compared to the pre-pandemic period, down 10% for airlines and 5% for airports, he highlighted.
Turkish Airlines difference pays off
Bolat also said that not being able to meet rapid rising travel demand will harm operational efficiency besides suppressing airlines’ growth.
He underlined that in contrast, Turkish Airlines maintained its workforce level during the pandemic while providing training for employees and preparing for the post-pandemic era.
“Today, we clearly see the contribution of this dedication to our flight and operational efficiency,” Bolat said.
Jankovec said that strong inflationary pressures resulting from the war in Ukraine create uncertainty for the rest of the year and 2023.
“So we do see significant demand pressures ahead, translating into downside risks for air traffic across the European airport network,” Jankovec said.
The ACI currently projects that passenger traffic in 2022 will be 22% below pre-pandemic levels, with a full recovery expected in 2024.
Bolat highlighted that the contraction of the US economy for two consecutive quarters, fueling recession fears, along with high inflation worldwide, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, and higher jet fuel prices may affect the outlook for the coming period.
“However, our past experience shows us that aviation has overcome all problems and managed to continue growing. In this respect, we see a bright future for both world aviation and Turkish Airlines,” he said.