By Elif Ferhan Yesilyurt, Handan Gunes, Belgin Yakisan, Eda Fatma Topcu, Ugur Aslanhan and Handan Gunes
Turkey's national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) is aiming to transport 69 million passengers in 2017, the airline’s head said on Friday.
"Our goal is to carry 69 million passengers this year,” Ilker Ayci, chairman of Turkish Airlines said. “The airline will reach 100 million passengers annually in a short period of time after inauguration of the third airport in Istanbul.”
In November, the Turkish Airlines noted that it carried over 57.8 million passengers in the first 10 months of the year.
In October, Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslanhad said that the third Istanbul airport will welcome the Turkish Airlines’ first aircraft before February in 2018.
Ayci said the Turkey’s national flag carrier is in the list of top six most preferred international airlines.
"Turkish economy and country's plane figure and market share is not in the top six in the world however we are in the top six in international passengers' most preferred and trusted airways list," the chairman of the airline said.
THY chief Ayci stated that the year 2017 would be better in terms of finance.
"In the world there is foreign exchange rate volatility and it affects our region. We manage it somehow. Our operating profit hits a record level if the effects of currency volatility are excluded," Ayci said.
To a question about the airline’s financial output, Ayci said they are proud of the financial results and the firm reduced its costs by 9 and 6 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Separately, Ayci said that there was a laptop and electronic device ban in March and the airline rapidly responded to it.
In March, the U.S. banned all passengers from carrying large electronic devices including laptops on commercial flights to the country from 10 international airports in eight Muslim-majority countries -- Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey.
The ban on US-bound Turkish Airlines' flights ended in early July.
"At first we started to transport banned devices by packing them. We carried at least 80,000 devices in 103 days and delivered them to passengers without any damage. At the same time we gave 'free Wi-Fi' service and laptops to business class on board," he said.
In the meantime, he said that the THY group -- including its subsidiaries -- has currently around 50,000 staff and it would recruit around 7,000 more employment in 2018.
"We announce this on social media. Those, who want to work for THY, can follow us on social media and apply for the job on internet. We will hire pilots, cabin crew, technician etc.,” Ayci remarked.
"In the future, we will have new destinations such as Jordan's port city of Akabe, Russian city Krasnodar and Sierra Leone's largest city and capital Freetown." Ayci said.
"There will be new destinations in Middle East, Africa, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)''
The THY chairman said that new generation planes will be added to the fleet.
Informing about the Turkish Airlines' next goal, Ayci stated that they fly to 51 destinations in Africa, but this figure is likely to go up to 55 as they are hoping to resume flights to Libya, South Yemen and Angola.
He said they regard THY Technic as an important player in making local-made aircraft engine.
The chairman added that Turkish Airlines will continue to sponsor Europe's top-tier international club based basketball tournament, EuroLeague.
Turkish Airlines fly to over 300 destinations worldwide with its fleet of 329 passenger and cargo aircraft.
According to the 2017 Skytrax survey, Turkish Airlines, already having been named the Best Airline in Europe between 2011 and 2016, has now been chosen the Best Airline in Southern Europe for the ninth year in a row.
*Written by Can Erozden from Ankara