|Turkish to avoid investment in EX-YU airlines|
Turkish Airlines has ruled out any interest in acquiring stakes in carriers in the former Yugoslavia following its experience with B&H Airlines several years ago. The announcement comes at a time when the remaining national airlines in the former Yugoslavia, those that are still fully state owned, look for a partner, including Adria Airways, B&H Airlines, Croatia Airlines and Montenegro Airlines. Mehmet Baspinar, Turkish Airlines’ Vice President for Marketing and Sales in Eastern Europe and the Balkans says that strict European Union laws and regulations, which are enforced across the region, forbid the Turkish carrier from becoming a majority shareholder. As a result, it cannot effectively enforce its strategy, as was the case at B&H Airlines.
Mr. Baspinar says, “We want to become the largest airline in the region and a major player in the world. More and more the world today tends to lean towards the East, as was the case in the past. Therefore, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, including, Ukraine, as well as the Caucasus and Turkey are very important to the strategy of our company development”. However, at the same time, the Turkish carrier, which has previously been rumoured as a potential strategic partner for Croatia Airlines and the former Jat Airways, is unwilling to invest in other airlines and airports in the region. Furthermore, the Vice President for Marketing and Sales ruled out a possible acquisition of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, which is in the process of being privatised. “We do not own any airports. However, it is possible that another Turkish company could be interested”. Yesterday, the Slovenian state investment fund SOD, announced it will likely call for the submission of binding bids for a 75.5% stake in Ljubljana Airport in July.
A former manager at Croatia Airlines, who wished to remain anonymous, is not surprised by the carrier’s decision. “Turkish Airlines has a grand plan to become the largest airline in the world by network size by 2038, on the centenary of the death of the father of the Turks Kemal Ataturk. However, Turkish Airlines does not base its growth on equity purchases, rather on organic growth”. Turkish Airlines handed back its 49% stake in B&H Airlines to the Federation government in 2012 for free, citing problems with the Federal administration.
Turkish Airlines has been rapidly expanding its operations across the former Yugoslavia in recent years. The airline is currently the dominant carrier in Sarajevo, operating flights from both Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports in Istanbul to the Bosnian capital. Earlier this year, the airline introduced a second daily flight to Zagreb, taking over slots once used by Croatia Airlines on the route prior to its suspension. Furthermore, the Turkish carrier has a strong presence in Pristina where it handled 136.632 passengers in 2013 and is the most popular flag carrier operating in and out of Skopje. In addition, Turkish Airlines has seen a big jump in passenger numbers to Ljubljana so far this year. "We are studying the possibility of gradually increasing the frequency", Mr. Baspinar said. “Flights will initially increase from seven to ten, and later to twelve per week”, he concludes.
EX-YU Aviation News will bring you news on the launch of a new charter brand in the region, Aviolet, tomorrow at 09.00 CEST. Until then, you can view exclusive photos HERE.