Turkish Airlines is thinking about starting nonstop flights to Australia utilizing either Boeing 777X or Airbus A350-1000XWB aircraft.
The airline already uses 777-300ER and A350-900 aircraft. The Star Alliance member may choose a different type, such as the A350-1000XWB, for ultra-long-range services from Istanbul to Sydney and Melbourne, Turkish Airlines chairman Ahmet Bolat told Aviation Daily on the sidelines of the IATA annual general meeting in Doha.
“Australia is the last continent which Turkish Airlines is not flying to,” Bolat said.
Bolat suggested the airline could fly the route with A340-500s or 777-200LRs. “But our studies show a big [financial] loss with those aircraft, especially with the current high fuel prices,” he said. Turkish does not operate A340-500s or 777-200LRs.
The 777X is also being considered by the carrier. “Any decision we make with one of those planes will be the appropriate one at the appropriate time. Watch how both types progress, Bolat said. It’s not necessary for us to be a launch customer.
Bolat does not contrast Turkish Airlines’ nonstop service to Australia with Qantas’ Project Sunrise, which intends to run direct flights from Australia to London and New York. He explained that “This [Sunrise] is a different product with less capacity,” he said. “We need more seats and we’re not going to change our business model.”
Turkish Airlines estimates that it would take about 17 hours to travel nonstop from Istanbul (IST) to Sydney (SYD) and Melbourne (MEL). 2026 or 2027 might be the start of services.
“We need to see the Boeing 777X or Airbus A350-1000’s proof of its maturity,” Bolat said.
The Istanbul-based carrier already has codeshare links to Australia while waiting for the ultra-long-range capacity to become available. The airline is in talks with countries like Malaysia or Indonesia for fifth freedom privileges and is also exploring for partnerships in Australia.
“If we would have that [fifth-freedom], then we could share the markets with the home carriers,” he said. “With the existing fleet we cannot do nonstop flights. We are talking with our codeshare partners, because it is more comfortable to operate Australia with the same aircraft.”
Turkish Airlines currently makes a $40 million profit annually from sales in the Australian market thanks to customers who connect to its global network via Istanbul.