Flying with Turkish Airlines is one of the best ways to travel: comfortable planes, great service and food, the brand new Istanbul Airport as the company's main hub and a wide network of destinations covering the world. We meet with Mehmet Gurkaynak, General Manager of Turkish Airlines Bulgaria, to talk about the airline's achievements and plans for the future.
Dear Mr Gurkaynak we know Turkish Airlines has been in Bulgaria for a long time but can you tell us about Bulgaria more from Turkish Airlines point of view?
Turkish Airlines's first flight from Sofia to Istanbul was launched with 3 weekly flights in 1984, 35 years ago. Today, the carrier is operating daily 3 flights from Sofia and 11 flights weekly from Varna. Bulgaria is well diversified country in terms of air travellers. Many airline companies operate from Sofia and other airports in Bulgaria. Leisure destinations are always popular for holiday travellers and the business traveller volume is quite remarkable. Bulgaria is such a beautiful country and has 4 seasons tourism options which makes also the incoming traffic very powerful.
For the last 15 year Turkish Airlines has also expanded its network all around the world. What is the current network coverage of Turkish Airlines and what are the upcoming new destinations?
Turkish Airlines has held the highest network coverage in terms of number of international countries. Currently it flies to 126 countries with a fleet of 341 aircraft. Turkish Airlines has more to offer to its guests from Bulgaria with new popular destinations in 2019 such as Bali in Indonesia, Marrakech in Morocco, Sharjah in the UAE, Luxor in Egypt, Rovaniemi in Finland, Mexico City and Cancun in Mexico.
We know from the media that new members of the fleet arrived already. Can you tell us about the fleet and your new airplanes?
This year, Turkish Airlines started to receive new 787-900 Dreamliner aircrafts. Moreover, Airbus A350 wide body aircrafts are on the list by 2020. The carrier's current fleet size is 341 and is one of the youngest ones in the sector. Our passengers enjoy Turkish Airlines comfortable high-end flight experience up in the air in business and economy class as well, which offer a variety of famous Turkish and world cuisine dishes along with exclusive services throughout the journey.
And the new Istanbul Airport… The big move took place in April, so how is it? Can you tell us more about that?
The opening of the new Istanbul Airport is one of the key factors in the development plans of the carrier and plays a major role in the growth of tourism in Turkey. The geographical location of Istanbul which is at the crossroads of continents between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East makes Turkish Airlines's hub a very important operations centre. The new airport started its operations with a capacity of 90 million passengers a year and, once all the phases are completed, in the forthcoming years the airport is expected to welcome 200 million passengers. Turkish Airlines's new hub has allowed enhanced travel experience, offering high-end services in a brand new environment for the comfort of its passengers.
As you mentioned, Varna is also another popular destination. What is your expectations for Varna?
Varna is one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria with its golden sandy beaches and golf resorts. For us it is also remarkable as it is the shortest international destination in Turkish Airlines's network. On 19 May we celebrated the 5th anniversary of Varna as a Turkish Airlines destination. In 2014 we started with 4 weekly flights and now we operate 11 direct weekly flights. Even though the main traffic is in the summer time, we are one of the few airlines operating in Varna all year around.
Turkish Airlines is one of the important air carriers in Bulgaria that connect the country to the world. How the traffic between Bulgaria and the world grew?
Bulgarian customers are very interested in travelling for leisure as well as for business purposes. Moreover, Bulgaria is also a very attractive country with its winter and summer sites of interest and resorts. So now one of our purposes is to enhance the incoming traffic to Bulgaria. Within this framework, Turkish Airlines has participated in familiarisation trips for foreign tour operators and journalists from Japan, Korea, China, Lebanon, Algeria, Kuwait, Turkey and India, among others. Our aim is to show the beauty of Bulgaria to the world as the country has very rich cultural heritage and a potential for winter sports, spa and summer beach tourism as well.
Can you tell us more about Turkish Airlines Bulgaria local sponsorships and CSR work?
Turkish Airlines has supported a variety of activities worldwide such as international golf tournaments, business forums, significant conventions like WEBIT and charity events. One of our charity cooperations was with For Our Children Foundation for support of vulnerable children in Bulgaria. We are also very active to create our own CSR projects here. For 3 years we have organised a children painting contest called "My Dream City With Turkish Airlines." Its purpose is to give a chance to our children to reveal on a blank white page their dreams like in their hearts. Last year we received more than 1,000 paintings and the winners had a chance to travel to their dream country on our wings.