Turkish Airlines has confirmed plans to buy 50 firm and 10 optional wide-body aircraft from Airbus and Boeing for its ever-growing fleet ahead of a move to a new Istanbul airport. The Airbus aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
In a statement on March 9, 2018, Turkish Airlines said it had agreed to buy 25 Boeing B787-9 Dreamliners, and 25 Airbus A350-900s from the A350 XWB Family. In addition, the company has the option to buy five more of each aircraft from both manufacturers, bringing the eventual purchase to a total of 60 jets. According to the statement, six planes would be delivered as soon as in 2019, 14 in 2020, 10 in 2021, 12 in 2022, 11 in 2023, and seven in 2024.
İlker Aycı, the Turkish Airlines board chairman, reportedly stated the airline, with the participation of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, signed a preliminary agreement with Boeing in New York, U.S., in September 2017, to purchase 787-9 Dreamliners. Likewise, a deal to add A350-900 aircraft to its fleet was signed with Airbus in Paris, France, during President Erdoğan’s official visit in January 2018, The Daily Sabah writes.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce has won an order from Turkish Airlines for Trent XWB engines to power the 25 A350-900 jets, The Business Desk reported on March 12, 2018. Ayci called this a “significant development” in the carrier’s plans for future growth. “We have previous experience of operating Rolls-Royce engines and know the benefits of both the technology and their Total Care service support,” he said. The airline currently operates 27 Trent 700 powered A330s and one Trent 500 powered A340.
An ever-growing fleet and a new major hub
The deals with Airbus and Boeing come as Turkish Airlines plans to move from its main hub – the Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) – to a new airport by Istanbul‘s Black Sea coast currently under construction.
The new airport, Istanbul’s third, is set to open on October 29, 2018, Turkey’s Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan was quoted as saying on February 10, 2018, by state-run Anadolu news agency. Meanwhile, Atatürk Airport – among Europe’s five busiest airports – will be closed once the new airport opens, Hurriyet Daily News writes.
Istanbul is a major hub for transit flights and attracts lucrative transfer traffic from major airports in the Gulf region. The Turkish government’s ambition therefore is to make Istanbul’s new airport a global hub that would compete with Dubai for transfer traffic. Which is why the Turkish Airlines deals with Airbus and Boeing are a “very important initiative to meet the need for wide-body aircraft at the new airport”, said Ayci, according to Arabian Business.
The flag carrier has grown exponentially in recent years with passenger numbers reaching 69 million in 2017, as traffic data indicates. The airline is now targeting a total 74 million passengers in 2018. With that, the carrier wants to expand its fleet from the current 329 to 424 aircraft by 2023, which is when the country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey.
The airline has full support of the Turkish government in its ambitious plans. In early January, 2018, President Erdoğan specifically stated the aim to make Turkish Airlines the airliner with the largest aircraft fleet in the world, with the opening of the new airport that, once fully operational, is also set to become the world’s largest, The Daily Sabah reports. According to Ayci, the strengthening of the fleet with the new aircraft will accelerate the rise of the airline as well as contribute to the Turkish civil aviation sector.