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Turkish Airlines Drastically Cuts Flights Following Coup Attempt

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Over the last couple of decades, Turkish Airlines has built itself into a truly global airline. Based in a rather geographically central location, it operates flights to 290 destinations in 116 countries — the most of any airline in the world. Not just prioritizing quantity over quality, the carrier has been awarded the Skytrax “Best Airline in Europe” award six years running — though some question Skytrax’s objectivity, the airline does offer a solid product overall.

However, the country of Turkey has seen a sharp rise in instability over the last few years. Democratically elected president Recep Erdoğan has shifted the country from its founding beliefs of a constitutionally secular democracy toward Islamic authoritarianism rule. For these reasons, the Turkish military attempted to overthrow Erdoğan in July — resulting in the FAA briefly banning flights from Turkey.

During the government’s purge since the failed coup — which has seen the jailing of over 35,000 people and the shut-down of many organizations — Turkish Airlines has acted in self-preservation and has fully supported the Erdoğan government. This has expressed itself in absurdly obvious ways, such as renaming its Istanbul airport lounge the “July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge”.

View of Istanbul from the Bosphorus, Image courtesy of Shutterstock
View of Istanbul from the Bosphorus. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Since the attempted coup occurred just over a month ago, the impact of the country’s increased instability on Turkish Airlines isn’t quantifiable quite yet. July’s international flight passenger loads dropped rather noticeably from a year prior (72.5% vs. 77.2%). However, it’s cutbacks announced just this weekend that are the biggest signs of weakness that we have seen so far. Though (most likely) unrelated, the airline’s latest tweet is unfortunately timed:

Saturday morning, Routes Online reported major cutbacks in both intercontinental and short-haul flights by Turkish Airlines starting in October. There are service cutbacks affecting 96 destinations — over 33% of Turkish Airlines’ routes — while only five routes are seeing an increase in service. Of Turkish Airlines’ nine US destinations, three are affected:

  • Istanbul Ataturk – Atlanta: Reduce from 7 to 5 weekly
  • Istanbul Ataturk – Los Angeles: Reduce from 11 to 7 weekly
  • Istanbul Ataturk – New York JFK: Reduce from 3 to 2 daily

If you’re already booked on one of these canceled flights, expect to receive notification soon that you’ve been rebooked onto one of the remaining flights. You might be able to leverage this change into being rebooked onto another Star Alliance carrier for your travels, assuming there’s award availability.

Bottom Line

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If you’re going to explore the wonders of Istanbul during a layover, it’s safest to avoid making any political statements.

Turkish Airlines is significantly cutting back service this fall — including eliminating 13 weekly flights between Turkey and the US. If you’re scheduled to travel on a Turkish Airlines flight anytime after October 30, check to see if your flights are affected.

If you’re considering flying on Turkish Airlines, transiting through Istanbul (IST) should remain relatively safe. However, due to political hyper-sensitivity in Turkey at this time, it’s best to avoid making any political statements while traveling on Turkish Airlines or transiting IST.

H/T: One Mile At A Time

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