Flying First Class In The GCC: Turkish Airlines in Qatar's General Manager Sees No Borders Turkey's geographic proximity and cultural similarities with Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council region is an advantage not just for Turkish Airlines, but also for Qatari and Turkish businesspeople alike.

By Erika Widen

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Mehmed Kursad Caymaz, General Manager of Turkish Airlines-Qatar. Image credit: Turkish Airlines

Turkey's geographic proximity and cultural similarities with Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council region is an advantage not just for Turkish Airlines, but also for Qatari and Turkish businesspeople alike. The Middle East is one of Turkish Airlines' fastest growing markets, underpinned by the buoyant economies in thriving cities such as the capital of the Gulf state. "In fact, from Doha, in 2014 we witnessed a 16% increase in passenger traffic from January to September, compared to the same nine month period in 2013," says Mehmed Kursad Caymaz, General Manager of Turkish Airlines in Qatar. "With an advantageous geographical hub between East and West, Turkish Airlines is well poised to continue its fast growth momentum, particularly combined with the efforts to increase Turkey's tourism sector."

Turkish Airlines currently has a total of 236 aircraft including cargo jets, and last year, signed a deal to receive an additional 256 aircraft in the coming years. Turkish Airlines flies 12 times per week from Doha to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, where connections are available to 260 destinations, serving as the fourth largest flight network in the world. Passengers can also connect to do- mestic airports operated by Turkish Airlines and there are two more hubs at Sabiha Gokcen Airport –the second airport in Istanbul– and Ankara's Esenboga International Airport. Sabiha serves domestic, European and Middle Eastern markets, while Ankara serves only domestic markets. According to Caymaz, the airline has connections from the Gulf region to more countries than any other airline in the market. "We have a number of peak seasons to Istanbul, Europe and the Americas; our most popular routes from the region," he says. "We add frequencies over the summer season to accommodate increased demand, particularly for family holidays to Turkey and European cities. The demand recently has been higher than ever with the Holy Month of Ramadan coinciding with the summer season. Holidaymakers from the Gulf escape the heat of summer for cooler climes in Europe and America where we offer competitive rates."

Turkish airlines flies to over 261 destinations in 108 countries. Image credit: Turkish Airlines

As a result, in 2015, the airline plans to add an additional 20 new global destinations to its network in order to meet the demand and reinforce their position as one of the world's fastest-growing airlines. "In the Middle East we have increased our frequencies from existing destinations, and we will continue to work with this strategy to meet the seat demands from the Gulf," Caymaz says. "As part of Turkish Airlines' planned expansion, we have also increased frequencies to Sabiha Airport in Istanbul, the increasingly popular international travel hub on the Asian side of the City." Turkey continues to attract an increasing number of both business and leisure travellers from Qatar, which is reflected in Turkish Airlines' increasing passenger numbers on this route. "In fact, to meet the rapidly increasing demand, we not only continue to upgrade our award winning services, fleet and facilities, but we are [also] planning to add increased frequencies from Doha in the not too distant future." Caymaz adds that in order to further support their partners in Qatar, who have been an integral part to their growth in the last eight years, they have also launched recently a new sales office in Doha. "In recognition of the increasing popularity of Turkey as a holiday destination, Turkish Airlines offers a number of campaigns for Qataris to take advantage of key seasons," he explains. "For example, the upcoming "Winter in Turkey' and "Istanbul' campaigns allow travellers to take advantage of promotional fares and to enjoy what the country has to offer, particularly the city of Istanbul, famed for its cultural blend of Eastern and Western influences."

Several 2013 media reports quote H.E. Ahmet Demirok, Turkish Ambassador to Doha, as stating that there are almost 100 Turkish companies registered at Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "The leading Turkish companies which are operating in Qatar are mainly construction organizations, such as TAV Construction, which helped construct the new Doha International Airport, Yuksel Insaat [Yuksel Construction], Makyou, and STFA Group of Companies. Also there are many Turkish academics at the universities, as well as administrative staff working as general managers, financial managers, and chefs at five-star hotels." While trading ties between the Gulf and Turkey have generally remained low in the last decade or so, the latter's extraordinary economic growth coupled with the former's thirst for new markets means that much closer ties can be expected in the near future. Turkish Airlines, being on the up and up, is more aware of this fact than most, and they'll be on hand to field the growing client base coming and going to Qatar in the coming boom.

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