Turkish Airlines has become Europe’s biggest carrier by volume this week. The carrier has overtaken giants like Lufthansa, British Airways, and Ryanair to operate the most flights. The ranking comes as European airlines remain in hibernation amid strict border controls across the continent.
Taking the lead
According to data from Eurocontrol, seen by Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish Airlines was Europe’s highest volume carrier in the week of February 8th to 15th. The airline averaged 592 daily flights last week, handily beating runner-up Air France at 383 daily flights. Turkish has been working hard to maintain its network and ramp up cargo capacity amid high demand.
However, the flag carrier wasn’t the only airline to make it to the top of the list. Turkish budget carrier Pegasus came in at third place, with an impressive 263 daily flights. Turkey is one of the few countries globally still allowing visitors to enter without strict quarantines, boosting passenger numbers.
Other European carriers have been flying skeleton services to ensure essential air links only, reminiscent of the pandemic’s early days. As new strains and rising cases impact the EU, airlines have scaled back their operations for the time being.
However, Turkish Airlines’ passenger numbers have been impacted deeply by the pandemic too. Traffic declined by 63% in Turkey last year, with international traffic falling by 70% and domestic by 57%.
Turkish Cargo growing
While the pandemic may have decimated passenger traffic, it has given airlines a lifeline in terms of rising demand for cargo. Previously, up to 50% of global freight was carried in the belly of passenger aircraft during routine flights.
However, with international flights now severely curtailed due to the crisis, the demand and price for international cargo have shot up in the last year.
The last year has paid off well for Turkish Airlines Cargo, which handles over 5% of global freight movement. The airline has also grown from the 8th largest cargo airline to the 6th in the last few months, according to CAPA, signaling that its planning has been working out.
Turkish Airlines is known for flying to the most destinations around the globe, spanning 245 international destinations at its peak. However, the pandemic has notably impacted international connectivity, with Turkish Airlines grounded for months last Spring. However, the airline has since bounced back strong and now flies to 208 of its prior destinations.
Despite returning to many of its destinations, schedules remain relatively light, with reduced frequencies across the network. However, with vaccinations now rolling out globally, Turkish could be looking at a much stronger 2021 in terms of passengers carried.
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