Turkish Airlines continues aggressive EX-YU expansion this summer
Turkish Airlines is continuing to make its presence felt in the former Yugoslavia with further expansion planned for the coming summer season. While Turkish’s expansion will be welcomed by passengers, as it fuels more competition and in turn lowers prices, EX-YU airlines are beginning to feel the heat. Starting May 2, Turkish Airlines will inaugurate flights from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sarajevo. The new service will run three times per week and will compliment the carrier’s eighteen weekly flights between Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and the Bosnian capital. As a result, Turkish Airlines will offer up to four daily flights between the two cities on selected days this summer. The new Sabiha service will go head to head against Pegasus Airlines’ daily flights with more details available here. Ultimately, Turkish’s expansion will come at the expense of its former subsidiary B&H Airlines which will be reducing its frequencies from Sarajevo to Istanbul from daily to only four per week from March 30.
It is not only B&H which is trying to keep up with its Turkish counterpart. This winter Air Serbia was forced to relocate from Istanbul’s main airport Ataturk to Sabiha Gokcen after authorities at Ataturk Airport, in collaboration with Turkish Airlines, offered Air Serbia landing and departure slots in the middle of the night. However, Air Serbia is now trying to retaliate. The Turkish carrier has not yet been issued a license to operate charter flights from Turkey to Belgrade this summer (the first time it has applied for summer charters to Serbia). In addition, the airline has been threatened with the possibility of losing some of its slots at Belgrade Airport. Talks between the two sides are set to continue next week, with Air Serbia hoping to return to Ataturk Airport.
Without much competition Turkish Airlines dominates in Skopje. The airline often sends its Airbus A330s to the Macedonian capital while the arrival of Flydubai to Skopje in 2012 did little to take away transit passengers from Turkish Airlines. In Zagreb, the Turkish carrier recently introduced a second daily flight, taking up slots which were formerly used by Croatia Airlines on the route. The Croatian carrier suspended flights to Istanbul last year. In Ljubljana, Turkish Airlines recorded a 35% jump in passenger numbers in 2013. On its flights to and from Pristina, the airline carried 136.632 passengers in 2013 while the carrier also operates flights to Podgorica and has plans to inaugurate services to Dubrovnik as well. As the airline continues to expand at an unprecedented scale and rate, the national carriers of the former Yugoslavia will need to revaluate their strategy against the Turkish giant if they are to remain competitive. Turkish Airlines is the only carrier to operate flights to all capital cities of the former Yugoslavia.