Turkish Airlines Announces Big Capacity Cuts

Filed Under: Turkish

Turkish Airlines has been growing at an incredible speed for the past decade or so. They fly to more countries in the world than any other airline, and have managed to operate a similar business model to the big Gulf carriers, by using Istanbul as a gateway to the world (though they’ve managed to stay out of the Gulf carrier controversy, at least).

Turkey has had a really rough few years, and in particular a rough couple of months. In late June several explosions went off at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, and then a couple of weeks later there was an attempted military coup. Tourism in Turkey was already way down before these two things happened due to general safety concerns, and the recent situation has made things even worse than before.

Turkish Airlines 777-300ER

While most Turkish Airlines passengers are only connecting in Istanbul, the impact of the recent events on the airline has been huge. After all, there was an explosion at the airport, and Turkish’s right to fly to the US was temporarily revoked following the coup.

While demand for travel through Istanbul and on Turkish has decreased, up until now we haven’t seen any capacity adjustments. Well, that’s finally changing.

Turkish Airlines has just announced some huge capacity cuts. Routes Online has the details of both the short-haul service changes, as well as the longhaul service changes. These adjustments are kicking in for the winter schedule, which is between October 30, 2016, and March 25, 2017 (I imagine many of the capacity cuts will be extended beyond then, but typically airlines update the schedule for one season at a time).

For the most part we’re seeing frequency reductions rather than Turkish outright canceling routes. However, these frequency reductions are impacting roughly 100 routes, so this represents a huge adjustment.

US routes seem to be among the least impacted, as we’re just seeing the following changes:

  • Istanbul to Atlanta is being reduced from 7x weekly to 5x weekly
  • Istanbul to Los Angeles is being reduced from 11x weekly to 7x weekly
  • Istanbul to New York is being reduced from 3x daily to 2x daily

Turkish Airlines is eliminating one daily flight between Istanbul and New York

So altogether we’re seeing 13 fewer frequencies to the US this winter, which pales in comparison to some of their other cuts.

While capacity cuts in winter are fairly common among airlines, typically that comes in the form of shifting capacity. In other words, in winter an airline like Lufthansa might switch capacity from Northern Europe to Southern Europe.

However, in the case of Turkish, there aren’t many destinations to which they can switch capacity, given how many routes they have already. It’ll be interesting to see whether they just park some planes, or what their plan is. I also wonder what this means for the ~180 airplanes that Turkish has on order.

Do you think Turkish’s cuts will be temporary, or is this the start of a major downsizing for the airline?

  1. When I first saw this notification this morning I was seeing all the cuts, so I started to look to see what they were *increasing* and there were SO few. They are going to have a TON of grounded planes and this is going to cost them dearly, and I can’t imagine the impact to the people who will be furloughed, as I can’t see how furloughs can be avoided. While I have no idea what loads are like on their long-haul routes overall, I imagine they are sucking. In between the airport attack and the unsettled government that looks like it’s going to become a no-longer-secular dictatorship (it seems kind of there already), I’m worried about not just the airline but the country (and the region).

    On the plus side, one could suppose that for anyone flying Turkish out of Istanbul, the July 15 Democracy Heroes Lounge will be seriously not crowded, so service levels should be better than ever. Behind every dark cloud etc. etc. etc.

  2. I’ve been continuing to fly on Turkish a lot recently and loads are definitely reduced. Their A330 Business Class from Boston-Istanbul has only been 20-25% full the last 3-4 times I’ve been on it, and the last time I was in Economy Class from Istanbul-Accra (737-9) there we’re many, many rows with only 1 passenger per 3 seats.

    Disturbing, yes, and I hope they get out of this rut soon, but like the previous commenter alluded to, service has been better than ever.

  3. They can fly to Sydney now with all those spare plane. They’ve been talking about starting the route late last year but got postponed.

  4. They should look into maybe flying fifth freedom routes as a lot of people ( including myself ) are probably wary about connecting in IST.

  5. They’ve dumped so much rewards availability onto Aeroplan… You can pretty much fly any international routing in Y or J via. Atatürk; irrespective of how inefficient it may be.

  6. “tourism in Turkey was already way down”
    on what basis is this claim done and what source have you relied on?

    A simple search on Turkey tourist arrival numbers shows that tourist arrivals GREW between 2012 and 2015.
    have a look at http://www.tradingeconomics.com/turkey/tourist-arrivals click on 5yr and you’ll see just how off base your claim in.

    after the incidents of July 2016, you cannot take summer 2016 into account to compare it with summer 2015. Plain and simple.

    No offense lucky but you’re specialized in onboard travel assessment. Let us not venture into world economics if it means you’ll be posting inaccurate and misleading information to many of your readers. If you continue to post in areas you are not quite familiar with, your readers will slowly defect over time.

  7. Yes, they should do Sydney: if it could be a direct service with the onward connections to Europe and East Coast USA, it could be attractive and give Emirates/Qantas a run for their money.

  8. One thing you did not mention was that their new airport is due to open next year. I’m thinking they are holding out hope that with that grand opening, they can pump up the capacity again, so they are hoping (and I am since it’s my primary airline) that this will be for a short time until the new airport opens.

  9. I’m in the lounge now. Airport was packed at noon. Loads of arab tour groups milling around. The Talimhane hotel district was packed with arab tourists all week. TK is also starting new business routes for the winter. Such as Cluj, Romania which starts September 1st. Europeans are not Turkey’s only tourism demographic. Tourists from the middle east often visit family friends or relatives in Anatolia. They may not be spotted in their burkinis on the beach at Kabak but they’re in the country spending money. That being said I’m sure tourism overall this summer was way down and they are anticipating a very bleak season this winter. I imagine there is hope to turn it around next high season with incentives.

  10. @H.T., don’t be a dick when you are VERY wrong. Basic common sense, plus a little knowledge would allow you to find out that tourism is, in fact, WAY down in Turkey right now. Is it higher than 2012? Probably, but it’s probably a lot higher than 1900, but what kind of comparison is that?

    Over the last year tourism has been WAY down in Turkey, April saw a 28% decrease over the previous April, and was the 9th consecutive month of decreased tourism, a drop of at least $6 Bilion, before even heading into the busy season which will likely see the numbers get even more terrible. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-27/turkey-tourism-capsized-by-tensions-as-arrivals-show-record-drop

    The following month, May, saw a decrease of 34.7% for the month, a total decrease of 9.9% YTD. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/turkey/articles/turkey-tourism-chapter-is-over-as-chaos-reigns-after-coup/

    So, yeah, Lucky was absolutely correct, you were an ignorant dick.

  11. @RCB Wow, what a pleasant mature person you are.

    Personally I agree completely with HT. While Lucky is undoubtedly an expert on frequent traveler programs and elite airline/ hotel products (not economy at all of course) he makes sweeping assessments on flight operations following incidents/ accidents as if he is a pilot (it seems he’s qualified cos he flew a 777 simulator for 30 minutes) and now as if he has a MBA in airline management and higher.

    Flying around the world sipping champagne doesn’t really qualify you to be a pilot or a CEO. That may come as a shock to some.

    Of course we are ALL entitled to an opinion however with with power comes responsibility blah blah, and with a huge readership, I don’t think he should be shooting his mouth off as he speaks with authority, seemingly backed by knowledge and facts. That is not the case (I’m a qualified jet captain with 10,000 hrs and I still wouldn’t pass judgment on 95% of what he does)

  12. Seems most travel/cc discussions inevitably deteriorate into a dick-boasting contest. Ironic.

  13. @HT, just because you post again as “andy” to pretend you have support doesn’t mean anyone actually falls for it. But, since you don’t seem to understand, there is no opinion here to agree or disagree with, we’re dealing in facts. Tourism in Turkey is way down, and I sourced the argument, there is nothing to dispute here. Move along.

  14. Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me given the fact that most international flights to and from turkey have not been full. I think if any route suspensions happen it will be with US flights as they are lately operating at only 50 percent capacity. compared to other route I would not be surprised to see other airlines follow suit,

  15. Flew TK between Ataturk and Lax just before the coup and the plane was almost full loaded….I think that it’s the cheapest way to get to Europe from Cali with a pretty decent service

  16. As a fan of Turkish, I’m glad to see this. Their load factor was already down >4% for the 1st half of 2016 — i.e. *before* the worst events at Ataturk. I had worried that they were going to brave it out without big cuts, in some expression of national pride/hubris.

    Cutting frequencies has to be painful (especially if they come with layoffs), but it’ll serve them well in the longer term. I’m sure they will be back to current levels and beyond in a couple of years, and until then I’m sure they can lease some of the fleet.

  17. Hi Lucky,
    Maybe a good time to update the ‘situation’ with Turkish Airlines.
    Since the October VISA suspension between USA & Turkey…it would be interesting to know what Istanbul-USA load factors are? I would imagine pretty dismal…
    Also thought the two governments would have reinstated VISAs by now, but that looks increasingly unlikely to happen, considering the USA probe/ prosecution of Zarrab & Trump announcement of moving US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has really upset Turkey, other Muslim countries…
    What are your thoughts regarding Turkish Airlines? Travel to Istanbul? Continued viability of TK USA routes?

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