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DIALOGUE: Turkish Airlines - Flying on the Wings of Excellence
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altFlying to over 234 destinations in 103 different countries, Turkish Airlines’ destination network is one of the largest in the world. Headquartered at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines has been one of the most decorated and highest achieving airlines in recent years. Known for their outstanding service, global gourmet cuisine, and an impeccable record of giving back to the community, Turkish Airlines is the model airline that the other carriers are striving to be like. Business Tianjin got a chance to sit down with Mr. Veysel Tas, the GM of Turkish Airlines here in Beijing, and talked to him about the airline's business and future plans. 
Tell us about your background and how you came to be the GM of Turkish Airlines in Beijing.
I have been with Turkish Airlines for more than 9 years already. After several years of experience in Istanbul and four years in Greece, I was honoured to be assigned the role of Turkish Airline’s General Manager in Beijing. This was the result of my hard work, the accumulation of many years of working experience and the trust in me recognised by Turkish Airlines. I have been working in China since 2010, more than three years already! In these three years I have had a very great time here and China has become one of my favourite countries.
What distinguishes Turkish Airlines from other carriers?
Turkish Airlines possess one of the largest flight networks in the world. Right now we fly to 234 cities around the world, comprised of 38 domestic and 196 international destinations with a fleet of 223 aircraft (passenger and cargo). Given the geographical location of Turkey, we have a great advantage being a natural transfer hub. Located on the edge of Europe and Asia, we have the unique advantage of being able to route Chinese passengers from China to Europe, and even to the rest of the world. 
As the “Best Airline in Europe” three years in a row since 2010, we always provide our passengers with the best service. For catering, we work with Turkish DO & CO to supply passengers with fresh world cuisine. Turkish Airlines was awarded with the ‘Best Food of Economy Class’ title by Skytrax in 2010 and ‘The Best Onboard Food’ by Skyscanner in 2011. We are one of the first airlines offering the 'Flying Chef' service in long distance flights to business class passengers. Also, Turkish Airlines is equipped with the world's most advanced in-flight entertainment system. Passengers will enjoy the best of entertainment with our wide range of games, films and music; even live TV and WIFI. 
We possess one of Europe’s youngest fleets, with an average age of six years. Finally, Turkish Airlines continually persists in its efforts toward realising its vision of total quality with the services carried out by its young, dynamic and cheerful staff before, during, and after flights. 
altHow does your corporate culture differ from that of other airlines?
Our future aim is to be the number one airline in the world. With that said, everyone in the organisation, from the CEO down, is working hard to realise this goal. Our focus and strategy boils down to how we can make our passengers happy. From before ticketing/reservations until after the flight, we have many interactions with the customer. Check-in, boarding, in-flight, baggage claim, etc. The whole time we are thinking about how to create the best customer experience possible. We have been voted the best European airline three years in a row now. Over 18 million people participated in voting us the top airline in Europe because they know they can expect exceptional cuisine, a wide variety of in-flight entertainment, and the highest level of customer service. 
What kind of challenges does Turkish Airlines face within the Chinese market?
In China, the biggest impression for me is that Chinese travelling and consumption habits are quite different from Europeans. In Europe, people like to plan ahead 3-6 months for their vacation, and they usually buy tickets from airlines. But in China, due to visas and other issues, people seldom plan vacations ahead and they buy tickets from agents very often. So, because of the differences in travelling habits, consumption habits, and culture, I need to adjust our sales and marketing strategies.
Turkish Airlines has been operating a Beijing route since 1999, over 14 years already. So, actually we already have a very good relationship with local travel and ticket agencies here. Since I have been in Beijing, I have regarded relationship building as a very important element for business development. Every year, we always organise some market events to in order to give our agents support and adjust our sales and marketing approach each campaign based on feedback.
What kind of trends do you notice emerging within the Chinese travel market?
Last year, the traditional travel agency combined with the online market, more so than in the past. This year, the combination of online and offline agencies for the Chinese travel industry will be much more obvious, which will foster a new era in China's travel industry. With maturation of China's e-commerce and the travel industry, online travel enterprises will have much more potential in the future. 
altWhat future routes are being considered/ planned for Turkish Airlines in China, both in the short and long term?
Turkish Airlines has opened direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong to Istanbul. Right now we are growing very fast worldwide with flights to 234 cities around the world. We have always regarded China as a big market, so we are always considering to open new destinations in China. However, we are still undergoing some procedures now. I hope the good news will be released soon!
Are there any future plans to add routes to and from Tianjin?
Tianjin is an important city in China and also important to Turkish Airlines. I personally feel that Tianjin is a beautiful and charming city. I hope in the future, we will consider adding a new route to Tianjin. However, due to the close proximity to Beijing, it is not likely to happen, at least in the near future.
Turkish Airlines utilises a lot of sports celebrities and advertises heavily at sporting events. Why are sports such an important part of Turkish Airlines' marketing strategy?
Indeed, we have sponsored many famous sporting events, sports teams, even players. Some of the organisations and individuals that have represented us include: the UEFA Europa League, golf tournaments, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, newly sponsored BVB football team, Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi and Caroline Wozniacki. No matter whether it is a sports team or player, all of the athletes we sponsor are the best in their own field. This matches Turkish Airlines' target, which is to be the best airline in the world. So, the global recognition and respect to the above teams or players allows us to reach a great number of people worldwide with our positive brand message. 
As I mentioned earlier, Turkish Airlines has won “Best Airlines in Europe” again for the third year in a row and we own one of Europe's youngest and most modern fleets. So, in associating ourselves with youthful champions, we hope to demonstrate our commitment of excellence to the public.
altWhat triggered Turkish Airlines to fly to Africa? 
First of all, let me mention that we fly to about 34 different destinations in Africa and are looking to add more routes on the continent. Africa is comprised of many developing countries which are important for our growth plans. With Istanbul located at the intersection between Europe, Africa, and Asia, Turkish Airlines is a natural hub for passengers looking to travel between continents. To demonstrate Istanbul's centrality, we fly to over 100 destinations within a short three hour flight from Istanbul. 
In what ways does Turkish Airlines practice corporate social responsibility?
We are very proud to be Turkey’s flagship carrier and we are aware of its social responsibility. The company continues to lend its support to numerous activities from the arts to sports. As an airline that consistently acts in awareness of its social responsibility, our airline has received the ‘High Award for Social Responsibility’ for our efforts to protect the environment. 

by Justin Toy

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