How Turkish Airlines is growing outside of Istanbul

Jul 2, 2022

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Over the last few years, Turkish Airlines has consolidated its position as one of the world’s major international airlines. It’s a global superconnector that flies to more international destinations than any other airline in the world from its hub at Istanbul Airport (IST).

In addition to making Istanbul’s brand-new airport one of the main intersections of the global air travel system, Turkish Airlines also operates an extensive secondary route network during the summer season that bypasses Istanbul entirely.

Although it has this fully owned subsidiary called AnadoluJet, Turkish Airlines doesn’t shy away from deploying part of its mainline narrow-body fleet to other airports in Turkey when demand is high. The fleet includes several models of both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families of aircraft.

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Turkish Airlines plane
A Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The hub-and-spoke model in Istanbul remains the bread and butter of the Turkish flag carrier. However, as seaside resorts draw millions of foreign visitors and many Turkish expats living around the world return home to visit family during the summer months, the point-to-point market potential of the Turkish regions is simply too big to ignore.

So, for a few months every year, Turkish Airlines joins myriad leisure market-oriented low-cost and charter carriers — both local and international — in offering nonstop links from Turkish regional airports to a broad range of destinations.

Specifically, some prominent destinations in this summer flight program include Germany, Austria and Russia. There are also direct routes to Central Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Balkans and Kazakhstan.

In the case of Russia, Turkish Airlines stepped in to fill in the gap when Russian airlines withdrew from international markets following the invasion of Ukraine.

Due to a fear of tourism revenue drying up, the Turkish government has backed a scheme in which Turkish carriers will make 2 million seats available to Russian vacationers — traditionally the single largest market for Turkey’s tourism industry.

In normal conditions, this capacity would have been supplied by tour operators and airlines based in Russia. However, under this program, 1.5 million seats will be provided by Turkish Airlines and the remainder by its privately owned, low-cost competitor Pegasus Airlines.

Because of this new endeavor and its busy summer program, Turkish Airlines has had to expand beyond Istanbul. The carrier launched nonstop seasonal charter flights from the seaside resort towns of Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman to the Russian regional cities of Kaliningrad, Omsk, Perm, Tyumen, Surgut, Chelyabinsk and Kazan.

Bodrum Turkey
Turkish Airlines has launched nonstop seasonal charter flights from seaside resort towns like Bodrum. (Photo by Tanatat pongphibool/Getty Images)

In the longer term, Turkey is even considering setting up a new charter airline to exclusively serve the Russian vacation market.

When it comes to regular flights, we have looked at data from aviation analytics firm Cirium — as well as Turkish Airlines’ website and other sources — to see what other destinations Turkish Airlines will fly you to while saving you an Istanbul transit.

While the flights mentioned below are technically operated by the Turkish Airlines mainline, the airline keeps a degree of flexibility; this means these flights may occasionally be operated by AnadoluJet or partner airlines, while still using the TK code.

Likewise, and unless otherwise specified, frequency data corresponds to the week of Aug. 8 to Aug. 14, but some variations are possible within the summer season. (Similarly, we also looked at the week of Dec. 12 to Dec. 18 to get a grasp of the interseasonal variations.)

In fact, pretty much all of these flights operate during the summer season only, with very few exceptions.

Antalya Airport (AYT)

The airline offers quite a strong summer program for Turkey’s third-busiest airport and the main gateway to the so-called Turkish Riviera.

In addition to the aforementioned summer charter flights to Russia, Turkish Airlines flies to the following international destinations on a regular basis:

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
21. Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN).
14. London Gatwick Airport (LGW), London Stansted Airport (STN), Vnukovo International Airport (VKO).
13. Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS), Ben Gurion Airport (TLV).
11. Skopje International Airport (SKP).
10. Brussels Airport (BRU).
Nine. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Sarajevo International Airport (SJJ), Stuttgart Airport (STR).
Seven. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY), Birmingham Airport (BHX), Ercan International Airport (ECN), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD), Hamburg Airport (HAM), Manchester Airport (MAN), Prishtina International Airport (PRN), Vienna International Airport (VIE), Zurich Airport (ZRH).
Six. Almaty International Airport (ALA).
Five. Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), Lepizig/Halle Airport (LEJ), Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (NQZ).
Four. Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG), Pulkovo Airport (LED), Munich Airport (MUC).
Three. Dublin Airport (DUB), Manas International Airport (FRU), Hannover Airport (HAJ), Sary-Arka Airport (KGF), Kuwait International Airport (KWI), Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN), Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW).
Two. Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN), Mohammed V International Airport (CMN), Copenhagen Airport (CPH), Hamad International Airport (DOH), Geneva Airport (GVA).
One. Bahrain International Airport (BAH), Goteborg Landvetter Airport (GOT).

Note: Of all of these flights, only a daily flight to Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) and a weekly flight to Vienna operate during the winter season.

Gazipasa Alanya Airport (GZP)

Alanya — another airport in the Turkish Riviera not far from Antalya — seems to lean strongly toward Scandinavian markets:

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
One. Oslo Airport (OSL).
One. Copenhagen Airport (CPH).
One. Billund Airport (BLL).

The other two major airports serving the seaside resorts of southwest Turkey are Milas-Bodrum and Dalaman (plus Izmir). The latter serves Turkey’s third largest city:

Dalaman Airport (DLM)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Nine. London Stansted Airport (STN).
Seven. London Gatwick Airport (LGW).
Six. Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY).
Four. Manchester Airport (MAN), Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), Vnukovo International Airport (VKO).
Two. Queen Alia International Airport (AMM).

 

Milas-Bodrum Airport (BJV)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Four. London Gatwick Airport (LGW), Vnukovo International Airport (VKO).
Three. Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY), Prishtina International Airport (PRN).
Two. Almaty International Airport (ALA), Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Kuwait International Airport (KWI), Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (NQZ), Sarajevo International Airport (SJJ), Skopje International Airport (SKP).
One. Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN).

 

Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Three. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA)*, Stuttgart Airport (STR).
One. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Geneva Airport (GVA), Munich Airport (MUC), Vienna International Airport (VIE)

* Operates in winter too.

Turkey’s Black Sea coast also gets its own international links, although on a much smaller scale.

Ordu-Giresun Airport (OGU)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
One. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Hamburg Airport (HAM), Munich Airport (MUC), Salzburg Airport (SZG).

 

Trabzon Airport (TZX)

Trabzon’s route mix is rather unique in its marked Middle Eastern orientation.

Weekly Frequencies Destination airports
Seven. Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
Four. Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), Bahrain International Airport (BAH), King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED), Muscat International Airport (MCT), King Khalid International Airport (RUH).
Three. King Fahd International Airport (DMM), Stuttgart Airport (STR).
Two. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS).
One. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Hannover Airport (HAJ), Munich Airport (MUC), Vienna International Airport (VIE).

Southeastern Turkey and Anatolia are also represented in this list.

Aside from Adana’s regional daily link to Beirut (one of the very few that operates year-round), the route network out of this part of Turkey links mostly to European cities with large Turkish communities. 

Adana Regional Airport (ADA)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Seven. Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY).
Six. Ercan International Airport (ECN).
Two. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS), Stuttgart Airport (STR).
One. Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Hannover Airport (HAJ), Hamburg Airport (HAM), Munich Airport (MUC), Nuremberg Airport (NUE).

 

Hatay Airport (HTY)

Weekly frequencies Destination airport
One. Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

 

Gaziantep Oguzeli Airport (GZT)*

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Three. Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER).
Two. EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg (BSL), Stuttgart Airport (STR).
One. Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS), Hamburg Airport (HAM), Vienna International Airport (VIE).

 

* It seems that at some point during the season Turkish Airlines has also operated nonstop flights from Gaziantep to Erbil, Hannover, Munich and Paris, although not in the week we used as a sample.

Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Three. Stuttgart Airport (STR).
Two. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS), Munich Airport (MUC).
One. EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg (BSL), Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Copenhagen Airport (CPH), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Geneva Airport (GVA), Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA), Hamburg Airport (HAM), Nuremberg Airport (NUE), Vienna International Airport (VIE).

 

Diyarbakir Airport (DIY)

Weekly frequencies Destination airport
One. Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS).

 

Elazig Airport (EZS)

Weekly frequencies Destination airports
Two. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Hamburg Airport (HAM).
One. Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Stuttgart Airport (STR).

You may have noted that Turkey’s capital and second-largest city, Ankara, is absent from this list. Turkish Airlines does actually offer international routes out of Ankara’s Esenboga Airport (ESB), but even if these have a TK code assigned, pretty much all of them are operated by AnadoluJet. The same happens at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), Istanbul’s second international gateway.

Featured photo courtesy of Turkish Airlines.

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