ISTANBUL -- Turkish Airlines aspires to fly 120 million
passengers by 2023, an increase of 60% over the 75 million passengers it
carried last year.
But in an interview here Tuesday, Turkish chairman and CEO
Ilker Ayci steered clear of discussing the carrier's most obvious route to
gaining so much traffic -- by denting the global connecting networks of Emirates,
Qatar and Etihad.
"There is not only, let's say, Gulf competitors. There
are West competitors and there are East competitors," Ayci said while
being interviewed by the BBC's Aaron Heslehurst on the stage of Turkish
Airlines' annual Corporate Club Conference. "But the biggest competitor of
Turkish Airlines is Turkish Airlines."
His comments came in response to a direct question by
Heslehurst about whether Turkish planned to take on the three major Gulf
carriers. Turkish, with its ideally located Istanbul base, already flies to 126
countries, the most of any carrier in the world. In April, Turkish moved its
hub from Ataturk to the new Istanbul Airport, which has a current capacity of
90 million annual passengers and expansion plans to increase capacity to 200
million by 2027.
Among Turkish's 75.2 million passengers last year, 23.4
million were in transit between two international destinations.
By comparison, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad carried 58.6
million, 29.2 million and 17.8 million passengers, respectively, in their most
recent fiscal years.
Ayci said the key for Turkish to successfully meet its
ambitious growth goals is to provide unmatched service.
"That is the secret of Turkish Airlines -- give the
felling that you are at home," he said.