Turkish Airlines says it could begin flights to both Sydney and Melbourne in early 2024, counter to previous plans to establish daily flights to one city before expanding to the other.
“We are allowed to have seven flights a week (to Australia),” Turkish Airlines chairman Ahmet Bolat told media in Istanbul during a briefing this week.
“We need to finalize the procedures, which may take a few more weeks. We may launch flights to Sydney and Melbourne in a very short time.”
Plans for a December 2023 start to those flights were scuppered by delays in the Australian Government responding to the carrier’s application.
Bolat also confirmed discussions with Airbus for the purchase of as many as 355 aircraft to be delivered across 2026-2036.
That blockbuster order is tipped to include up to 100 long-range Airbus A350 jets, with 15 of the A350-1000 variant which could deliver non-stop flights from Istanbul to Sydney and Melbourne.
The A350-1000 forms the basis for Qantas’ planned non-stop marathons connecting Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York, albeit with modifications such as an additional fuel tank and a weight-saving ‘premium-heavy’ seating configuration compared to standard A350-1000 jets in order to travel the 17,000km between Sydney/Melbourne and London.
However, the 15,000km distance between Sydney/Melbourne and Istanbul falls within the range of the standard A350-1000, especially since Airbus recently boosted the twinjet’s scope to almost 16,500km.
Istanbul to Australia, via Singapore
Turkish Airlines’ first foray to Australia would involve a stopover in Singapore, with Bolat telling Executive Traveller on a visit to Australia in July this year “we are working on three flights per week via Singapore using our Boeing 787s for this journey.”
Turkish Airlines intends to ramp up the frequency from three to five flights per week, and eventually daily flights to both Sydney and Melbourne “is our strategic target,” Bolat says.
Bolat also said the airline will seek ‘fifth freedom rights’ to sell the Singapore-Australia leg on its own, describing that as “really a crucial factor” for the route.
However, the Star Alliance member eventually hopes to skip Singapore in favour of non-stop Istanbul-Australia flights, with Bolat revealing “our main goal is to fly directly to both Sydney and Melbourne every day, with the production of a new generation of ultra-long-range aircraft.”
At the time, Bolat said Turkish Airlines was looking at an order of “10 to 15” such aircraft, which would also fly to South American destinations such as Santiago and Bueno Aires.
“It’s five years if it’s the A350, if it’s the 777 it’ll take seven years to mature,” he predicted – and now the ‘A or B’ decision appears to have been made in favour of the Airbus A350-1000, although those globe-spanning flights wouldn’t take wing until the end of this decade at the earliest.
Bolat says his ambition to connect Istanbul and Australia is a long-held one, noting the airline “carried 120,837 passengers in 2019 and 118,847 passengers in 2022 with airlines with codeshare agreements from Australia, where we do not have direct flights yet.”
Turkish Airlines 787 business class
Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 787s each have 30 flatbed business class seats in the same design as Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-10 ‘regional business class’.
Turkish Airlines already has daily flights to Singapore, where it uses Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 – the same terminal as used by Qantas and Emirates, among others.
During that Singapore stopover, business class passengers, Elite and Elite Plus members of the airline’s Miles&Smiles reward program and their Star Alliance Gold siblings will break their journey at T1’s SATS Lounge.
The long leg between Singapore and Istanbul will take around 11 hours, with a total Melbourne-Istanbul or Sydney-Istanbul travel time of 21 hours including the Singapore stopover.
From Istanbul, of course, scores of convenient TK connections spear out across Europe, the UK and Africa.
For stopovers at Türkiye’s impressive new Istanbul Airport between six and 24 hours, the airline offers two free packages for exploring the sprawling city, which straddles both Europe and Asia on either side of the Bosporus: a choice between eight city tours, and a more comprehensive Stopover in Istanbul program including a complimentary stay of up to two nights in a five-star hotel.
Bolat also says business class passengers from Australia will be offered a free domestic return flight to the historic city of Karahan Tepe, in the country’s south-east, best known for ongoing archeological digs.
The Turkish Airlines experience
Turkish Airlines is held in high regard by business class travellers, with one highlight of the journey being “restaurant quality” gourmet meals prepared by the airline’s signature Flying Chefs – and yes, they’re actual chefs, not cabin crew wearing a fancy hat.
The airline’s Boeing 787 flatbed business class seats are arranged 1-2-1 to provide privacy and direct aisle access for every passenger, with an 18-inch video screen plus free inflight WiFi.
Turkish Airlines’ Istanbul Airport hub features two stunning lounges – one for business class travellers, the other for frequent flyers holding Elite and Elite Plus status in Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program (and their Star Alliance Gold equivalents).
Top-tier frequent flyers with Qantas, Emirates, Etihad Airways and any member of the Oneworld and SkyTeam alliances can apply for a Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles status match to obtain up to 12 months as a Miles&Smiles Elite tier member, unlocking practical perks such as lounge access, a higher checked luggage allowance and the use of priority lanes at Istanbul Airport.