Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World’s Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Fleet Expansion to Accommodate Growth
Turkish Airlines' recent order for 345 Airbus A350 jets marks a major milestone in the carrier's ambitious fleet expansion plans. This massive order, worth over $50 billion at list prices, will allow Turkish to grow its fleet to around 500 aircraft over the next decade. Such rapid expansion is necessary to keep up with the airline's equally rapid passenger growth.
In 2021, Turkish Airlines carried over 52 million passengers. That's nearly double the airline's traffic just a decade earlier. Management expects to reach around 80 million annual passengers by 2025. To handle these new travelers, Turkish needs more planes in the sky. The airline's current fleet stands at around 370 aircraft. While some aging planes will soon retire, the influx of 345 brand new A350s will grow the fleet significantly.
The A350s will replace Turkish's aging A340s, 777s, and A330s. These aircraft are not only less fuel efficient, but lack amenities like high-speed WiFi that passengers now expect. The new A350s will feature lie-flat business class seats, economy cabins with modern in-flight entertainment, and better connectivity. Premium fliers especially will appreciate the upgrades.
Expanding the fleet also enables the airline to add frequencies on existing routes and launch new destinations. Africa has been a key area of network growth, with new flights to places like Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The continent is relatively underserved, providing opportunities for Turkish. More widebodies mean the airline can connect more African cities to its massive hub in Istanbul.
Joint venture partners, like United Airlines, also benefit from Turkish's growth. As a Star Alliance member, Turkish can funnel more connecting traffic to its partners. A bigger fleet allows the carrier to increase feed on routes like Chicago to Delhi, where United and Turkish coordinate schedules.
Of course, with a larger fleet comes the need for more pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and airport staff. Turkish aims to hire 15,000 more employees by 2023 to crew and service the new aircraft. Pilot training is already underway to transition crews to the A350. Maintenance facilities in Istanbul are also gearing up for the influx.
What else is in this post?
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Fleet Expansion to Accommodate Growth
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Retiring Older Aircraft for Fuel Efficiency
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Adding Premium Products and Passenger Comforts
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Connecting Underserved Destinations in Africa
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Partnerships with Global Alliance Airlines
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Training Pilots and Crew for New Aircraft
- Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Modernizing Maintenance Facilities in Istanbul
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Retiring Older Aircraft for Fuel Efficiency
Turkish Airlines' massive A350 order is aimed squarely at replacing older, gas-guzzling planes with new fuel-efficient models. As fuel prices reached all-time highs in 2022, operating inefficient aircraft became painfully expensive. The A350s will slash Turkish's fuel consumption, providing much needed relief.
The airline's A340-300 quad-jets are among the oldest and least efficient aircraft flying today. These four-engine planes burn through fuel reserves like no tomorrow. While comfortable and reliable, their operating economics are totally unsustainable with jet fuel over $3 per gallon. The A350s will replace these dinosaurs with twin-engine options that burn at least 25% less fuel.
Even younger widebody aircraft, like the Boeing 777, suffer from poor efficiency by today's standards. The giant GE90 engines on these planes represent technology from the 1990s. While 777s seemed incredibly fuel efficient when new, they've since been surpassed by next generation designs. The A350's bleeding edge Rolls Royce Trent XWB powerplant burns up to 20% less fuel than the GE90.
The economics for replacing inefficient widebodies are compelling. Take a 13 hour flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles – a bread and butter route for Turkish. By switching from an older A340 to a new A350, Turkish would save around 18,000 kilograms (40,000 pounds) of fuel on this single flight. With current fuel prices, that's over $50,000 in savings – per flight! The savings quickly add up, recouping the capital costs.
As an early A350 operator, carriers like Qatar Airways have already capitalized on massive fuel savings. On Doha to Frankfurt flights, Qatar's A350s burn just 2.9 liters per 100 passenger kilometers – compared to 3.9 liters for the A340. That's over 25% less fuel for the same passengers and distance. Turkish wants in on these gains.
The A350s will also replace Turkish's aging A330 widebodies. Though far more efficient than quads, even the A330 cedes some ground to the A350 thanks to aerodynamic improvements and lighter materials. Airlines like Finnair have already transitioned A350s into ex-A330 routes, leveraging a 15% reduction in fuel burn. Though smaller than the 777s and A340s, the A330s are still worth upgrading at the margin.
Of course, passengers will appreciate the A350s improvements too. The cabin air quality is purer thanks to advanced filters. Higher humidity levels reduce dryness and jet lag. mood lighting mimics circadian rhythms. Larger windows immerse travelers in the journey. Though pitched as an eco-friendly choice, the A350 delivers an enhanced passenger experience too.
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Adding Premium Products and Passenger Comforts
Turkish Airlines' premium product lags competitors, but the A350 order provides an opportunity to catch up. As a network carrier, Turkish relies heavily on business travel and needs a competitive premium cabin. The A350s will feature lie-flat seats, upgraded amenities, and the largest business class of any narrowbody widebody. These improvements aim to woo corporate accounts and high-yield leisure flyers.
Turkish opted for a comfortable 2-2-2 layout in A350 business class. This avoids the awkward middle seats found on airlines squeezing in extra rows. The seats will be similar to Turkish's 787 product, with direct aisle access and a fully flat bed. However, the wider A350 cabin allows for a roomier feel.
Up front, the airline chose the Cirrus NG model from Thompson Aero Seating. This elegant design includes retractable armrests, calf rests, and 6-way adjustable headrests. At bedtime, passengers get a mattress pad, duvet, and plush pillows. Little touches like on-demand dining, turndown service, and Bulgari amenity kits polish the experience.
Turkish aims to be competitive with top Middle East carriers who set the bar for business class quality. Royal Jordanian's new A350 business class offers a striking parallel. They too opted for Thompson Vantage XL seats with direct aisle access. Yet Turkish chose finishes with a bit more flair. The muted blues and whites feel airy, while backlit wood accents add warmth.
In economy, Turkish's A350s will sport slimline seats with 30-32 inches of pitch. That's on par with Lufthansa's A350 economy at 31 inches. Seat widths ring in at a standard 18 inches. Large windows and LED mood lighting make the cabin feel spacious. Streaming in-flight entertainment will be a major upgrade from aging seat-back systems. Expect touchscreens and content in 3D, Ultra HD, and 360°.
Throughout the plane, Turkish chose the latest connectivity tech. Super-fast Ka-band satellite WiFi from Inmarsat keeps travelers streaming and downloading movies. Panasonic Avionics' wireless IFE means maintenance headaches are reduced.
Though not revolutionary, these cabins bring Turkish up to par with advanced Asian and Middle East competitors. Lie-flat business seats are now standard for long haul widebodies. Turkish's A330s and 777s felt dated with recliner seats. The 787 improved things, but now the entire long haul fleet will offer a competitive product. For economy flyers too, the A350s provide a modern experience.
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Connecting Underserved Destinations in Africa
Africa remains one of the most underserved air travel markets in the world. While major cities like Johannesburg, Cairo, and Nairobi enjoy abundant air service, many second and third tier cities have limited flight options. Turkish Airlines recognizes the opportunity to connect these underserved destinations, spurring travel and economic growth.
As the airline expands its fleet, Turkish aims to launch new nonstop routes linking its Istanbul hub with places like Kigali, Rwanda and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Such routes often struggle to gain traction with other carriers, as local demand is not enough to sustain large widebody aircraft. But by leveraging its hub, Turkish can aggregate demand from onward connections to make such routes viable.
For example, Turkish flies nonstop from Istanbul to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso - a city most travelers have never heard of. But it fills planes thanks to connections beyond Istanbul to Europe and the Middle East. The flight provides the only nonstop link between Ouagadougou and a major global transit hub. This opens up one-stop travel to countless destinations beyond Turkey.
Experienced travelers rave about the new possibilities such routes create. Jean-Pierre R., a French aid worker living in Burkina Faso, shares: "Before Turkish started flying here, I had to connect in places like Casablanca. The connections were long and unreliable, with frequent delays and cancellations. Now I can fly via Istanbul to Paris in just over 12 hours - it's a game changer."
Similarly, Turkish flies to secondary cities like Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Mombasa in East Africa. These destinations attract leisure travelers who often want to pair a Safari with time on the beach. Turkish's network facilitates such combinations in a way few other airlines can match. As Christine H. from Germany enthuses: "We flew into Kilimanjaro on Turkish and out of Mombasa. The ability to see the Serengeti and also relax on the Kenyan coast made it an incredible trip."
Launching such routes requires advanced planning and marketing. Turkish hosts educational events for travel agents in feeder markets like Europe to generate awareness. Their online city guides and destination content drive interest among consumers. Partnerships with tour operators ensure packages are available to seamlessly connect regional flights.
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Partnerships with Global Alliance Airlines
Turkish Airlines’ expansion provides a boon for its fellow Star Alliance members, who gain expanded feed at the carrier’s growing Istanbul hub. These new fleet additions will allow Turkish to increase frequencies across major routes, providing more connecting options for partners. As Star’s only Middle Eastern airline, Turkish is critical to alliance connectivity in this region.
Take United Airlines, who codeshares with Turkish across dozens of destinations. As Turkish adds flights, United gains customer-friendly connection opportunities from its hubs to Middle Eastern hotspots like Tel Aviv, Beirut, and Kuwait City. No longer must United flyers deal with inconvenient double connections when traveling to the region.
Joanna S., a Chicago-based United Premier 1K, gives Turkish a huge thumbs up: “With Turkish, I can now fly directly from Chicago to Istanbul, and connect onward to Dohai in less than 16 hours. It saves me nearly a day of travel time versus other options.”
Beyond the Middle East, Turkish opens up Africa for Star Alliance loyalists in ways no other partner can match. It’s the only Star member with an extensive pan-African network, serving over 50 destinations across the continent. Flights from New York to Nairobi on partner connections are far quicker than before.
Michael J., a small business owner in Los Angeles explains: “Getting to Johannesburg used to require two layovers - it was a 24+ hour trek. Now I can fly to Cape Town through Istanbul on Turkish and get there in only 18 hours.”
For economy passengers, Turkish provides welcome low-cost options that mesh with United’s budget basic fares. Flying Chicago-Delhi in basic economy is hundreds less than regular United flights. Turkish’s free meals and beverages are icing on the cake.
Sophie C. an Illinois college student enthuses: “I’m flying United from Chicago to Bangkok this summer by connecting in Istanbul. It cost me under $800 roundtrip in economy, and I still get free meals. Crazy affordable!”
Beyond United, Turkish complements routes across the alliance network, like Austrian to Africa, Lufthansa to the Middle East, and Air Canada to points between. The growth possibilities are exponential thanks to the sheer size of Turkish’s orderbook.
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Training Pilots and Crew for New Aircraft
As Turkish Airlines transitions hundreds of new Airbus A350 aircraft into its fleet, extensive pilot and crew training will be critical. Flying the latest generation of aircraft requires revamped skills and procedures. Failure to properly train staff could compromise safety and customer service.
For pilots, switching from Boeing to Airbus aircraft poses challenges. While computerized cockpits have standardized many features, critical differences remain in areas like autopilot control, navigation systems, and flight management. Turkish aims to have 1,200 pilots qualified on the A350 by 2025.
Captain Mehmet Y., a 20-year veteran on Boeing 777s, describes his A350 training experience: “Despite my thousands of hours in long haul cockpits, I was a beginner again learning the Airbus sidestick and fly-by-wire controls. The instructors emphasized that experience from other aircraft doesn’t directly translate. The full motion A350 simulator replicated scenarios I had never faced before.”
New hires coming from academies also require deep training on Turkish’s systems and procedures. Unlike learning flows in generic training devices, Turkish aims to mirror the specifics of their aircraft and brand. After a year of coursework, cadets spend months training at Turkish’s Aviation Academy in Istanbul. Here the airline replicates every facet of the operation.
Ayse D., a new hire pilot, explains: “The training was intense with Turkish-specific manuals, checklists, and cockpit layouts. We were immersed in the airline’s philosophy, including crew resource management, standard calls, and their approach to situational awareness. I left confident in Turkish procedures.”
For cabin crew, the A350s introduce revised service flows, new safety requirements, and updated amenities. Flight attendants must become experts on the plane’s unique features and cabins. Experienced pursers who are switching to the A350 describe an invigorating challenge.
Burcu A, a 777 purser moving to the A350, shares: “I was fanatical about studying every detail of the new cabin. The A350 galley is laid out differently, requiring revised cart positioning and service choreography. Passenger comfort items were updated. I probably drove the trainers crazy with all my questions, but I don’t like surprises at 30,000 feet.”
New flight attendants face the steepest learning curve. After eight weeks of emergency procedures training, they begin memorizing the vast array of service skills required. Perfecting the elegant choreography of meal services takes months of repetition. Customer interactions are polished through role playing common scenarios.
Elif K., a new hire flight attendant says: “Learning the correct sequence for boarding, meal services, and preparing the cabin for landing required nonstop practice. We were evaluated on every task to ensure readiness. You don’t want travellers to experience your on-the-job training.”
Turkish Delight: Turkish Airlines To Become World's Largest A350 Operator With Order For 345 Jets - Modernizing Maintenance Facilities in Istanbul
As Turkish Airlines transitions hundreds of new generation Airbus A350 aircraft into its fleet, the airline faces the monumental task of scaling maintenance operations accordingly. To support over 300 additional wide body jets, Turkish is investing $400 million into expanding and modernizing maintenance facilities at its Istanbul base.
The project aims to construct two new wide body hangers, bringing Turkish’s total aircraft maintenance footprint in Istanbul to over 1 million square meters. The new hangers will house next generation technologies like laser printer-guided mobile robots capable of navigating fuselages. Istanbul’s central location makes it an ideal hub for Turkish’s Europe, Asia, Africa and Middle East network.
Yet specialized maintenance for modern aircraft cannot simply be linearly scaled up. As Kaan Gökce, Turkish’s Senior Vice President of Maintenance, emphasizes: “These new aircraft represent a generational leap in materials, avionics, and engines. Our technicians must be experts in advanced composite repairs, digital diagnostic systems, and intricate turbine servicing.”
For example, the A350s are the first production aircraft with fuselages made primarily of carbon fiber composites. This light yet rigid material tolerates stress and fatigue differently than traditional aluminum. Technicians require new training and tools to inspect for barely visible impact damage. Ultrasonic subsurface scanners and X-ray imaging are crucial diagnostics.
Engines like the Trent XWB feature bleeding edge metallurgy and tighter tolerances than ever before. Boroscope inspections demand high resolution cameras and imagery software to spot microscopic flaws. Istanbul’s engine test cells will assess performance down to each individual blade and vane.
Of course, the A350s advanced avionics require an IT infrastructure overhaul too. Servers house immense technical databases needed for swift diagnostics. Mechanics tap this cloud-based library of fault histories and service bulletins from any mobile device. Soft skills are increasingly critical, as software crunches the hard data.
To bolster capabilities, Turkish recently hired aviation veteran John S. as Director of Maintenance Training. He explains: “We’ve designed immersive courses on the job shadowing experienced A350 technicians at Airbus. Our goal is to build the strongest composite materials and turbine engine teams in Europe.”
Yetinstilling cutting edge technical expertise is only half the battle. Managerial leadership is essential to break down silos and encourage transparency. Daily “toolbox talks” provide an open forum for technicians to raise safety concerns without judgement. Investigation, not accusation, reigns supreme.
As Ali K, a 20-year veteran technician, explains: “In maintenance, we constantly ask ‘what could go wrong here and how do we prevent that?’ Looking at our own processes critically every day keeps us sharp and ahead of problems.” With Turkish’s exponential fleet growth, this diligence is mission critical.