TK1933 is the name Turkish Airlines has given to its new in-house fragrance which was released last week. The fragrance will be used in aircraft cabins, ticket offices and airport lounges to help develop a “sensuary recognition” for the airline. This is all part of the process of making Turkish Airlines a major international brand and putting the bad old days (shocking service and an even worse safety record) behind it.
Unfortunately, that process keeps hitting bumps in the road. In the last few months, the airline revealed a new outfit for its female cabin staff which had to be hastily withdrawn because it was too obviously Islamic in design. Then they said they would ban the use of red lipstick and backtracked on that as well. There is also a move to make it illegal to strike at the airline which would make it much easier to sack any staff member. The Chief Executive has either taken compassionate leave or been suspended (depending on who you believe) just to add to the confusion.
The airline really cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a forward-thinking western company or an airline looking back at its own world of conservatism and cronyism.
As the riots at the weekend have shown, this is just a sign of an on-going battle in the whole of Turkish society. The autocratic government want to build a mosque where people traditionally celebrate New Year (and thus making the celebration illegal), they have stopped issuing new alcohol licenses and refer to anyone who drinks as “alcoholics” and want to further restrict the right of free speech.
Turkish Airlines was part of the way on the road to becoming a respectable international airline but the next few months will be crucial for the airline and the whole country. Without some liberalisation from the government, they might as well scrap TK1933 and go back to being what they were in the 1990′s.