Welcome to Istanbul?

Recent figures show that Istanbul is now the world’s fastest-growing hub airport. Turkish Airlines continues to introduce new routes, often to cities that have few international connections, making it a very good bet if you want to get somewhere off the regular airline networks. Istanbul’s airport has also managed to keep pace with the airline’s growth and remains a relatively pleasant place to transit.

Competition for connecting passengers is intense. there are the three Gulf carriers with their sleek images (and, often, rather less sleek airports), the four big Asian carriers and China is getting in one the act too.

Most people want to connect between flights as quickly as possible but a significant minority regard the enforced stop as a chance to see somewhere different, if only for a couple of days. The big Asian cities and the Gulf states all benefit greatly from these short stays of people who would not otherwise visit and are keen to promote stopover visits and make it as easy as possible The Chinese are so keen on building their hub airports they have just dropped the requirement for visas for passengers transiting Beijing with confirmed onwards tickets for stays of 72 hours or less.

Turkey is the sad exception to this. Visitors have to pay a fee of £10 (cash, no change given) to enter the country.

This is bad enough for holidaymakers who have chosen to visit Turkey but it is a serious disincentive to possible stopover tourists who just feel like a day or two in Istanbul on their way from Manchester to Lahore or Belgrade to Bangkok.

One would imagine that Turkey would want to do all it can to encourage visitors but, clearly this is not the case. All the other major hub airports want you to stay – Istanbul, it seems, could not case less.


Turkish Airlines on Slippery Slope

Turkish Airlines has fought hard over the last few years to build a reputation as a modern, secure, international airline but there are some rather worrying gaps appearing in the carefully created PR image that no amount of sponsorship of glamorous football clubs will hide. The most recent blow is totally self-inflicted and suggests the airline has little idea or concern about how it is viewed by the rest of the world.

The Turkish parliament is debating a law to ban aviation workers from striking. This is just one of many signs of the government’s swing to totalitarianism.

The Turkish Civil Aviation Union reacted by urging members to go sick – the only method of protest available. Turkish Airlines instantly dismissed 150 staff (according to rumours, mostly engineers, cabin staff and at least one Captain).

Turkish Airlines has had one of the worst safety records of any airline in the world. That has improved but, as the accident in Amsterdam showed, they still have problems to overcome. No one likes strikes but the right to strike is a fundamental liberty in any civilised society. If airline employees are fearful of speaking out against their employer or government, safety will be the first casualty.