By Onome Amawhe
Temel Kotil strives to run an efficient airline company. He has been instrumental to the profitability of one of the world’s leading carriers. Turkish Airlines has remained on the cutting edge in the global aviation industry as seen its emergence as ‘’Best airline in Europe” for the fifth consecutive year, based on the rating of Skytrax, an acknowledged name associated with air travel excellence.
As a build on to this feat, one of Kotil’s key strategic priorities is to further improve the airlines’ passenger satisfaction: “We have been working tirelessly to improve on the quality of our service. And we have also been investing heavily to consolidate our place in the industry through our range of products and further improve on our brand awareness and its value.
Investment in the brand
“Our investment in the brand in itself made us emerge as the second best top of the mind recall brand amongst airline brands for the year 2016”. Kotil finds that it’s one thing for an airline company to grow, but it takes a lot more to manage that growth.
His description of the growth management of Turkish Airlines is steeped in the company’s consistent performance in financials and investments: “The most important factor for growth is to make it a sustainable one.
“Our bottom line performance since 2002 has been very healthy and profitable with about 25% EBITDAR margin. And that has really empowered us to invest in new aircrafts and personnel efficiency thus helping to improve our operational efficiency”. Turkish Airlines was established in 1933 as part of the Turkish Ministry of defense with only five aircrafts. In the beginning, the carrier commenced with domestic routes. In 1947, the first international route from Ankara to Istanbul and then Athens was launched.
The ensuing years saw the company operating more international routes leading to an increase in fleets. Today, the airline flies to more countries than any other airline and is the world’s fourth largest carrier in terms of destination served. As a member of the Star Alliance, the airline company has code share agreements with about 40 other airlines.
Currently, the airline company boasts the largest and youngest of fleets in Europe actively operating 317 aircrafts (passenger and cargo) with an average age of approximately seven years. The company’s commitment to maintaining a high level of quality is the result of hard lessons from its past. The airline’s widespread network spans 289 destinations in 115 countries, comprising domestic and international destinations, and is considered to operate one of the largest networks in the world with an impressive frequency rates.
Turkish Airlines commenced Nigeria operations in 2006 on the Lagos -Istanbul route. Shortly after the debut, the company realized the need to add more frequencies then increased capacity flying three routes-Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
The airline also increased its operation offering seven daily flights from Abuja. As with many international airlines operating on the Nigerian airspace, Nigeria is one of the most strategic routes for the company and it recently opened an outlet in Abuja making it the third local destination in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano. Port-Harcourt is the next prospect in the offing for the four star carrier.
Temel Kotil, who was named Turkey’s best performing CEO for the year 2015, is clearly enthused by the fact that more than any other airline in the world Turkish Airlines offer the largest number of destination choices for its passengers: “That is why we were rated as the best European airline connecting Nigeria to world”. Connecting Nigeria to the world comes with its own challenges. Kotil explains that some of the issues the airline faces in its Nigeria operations arethose of weather conditions as well as runway closure especially in Abuja. He adds that the weather challenge is similar to what it finds in other countries where it operates particularly on the African routes. Nevertheless, the airline is inlove with Africa as can be seen in its holistic preference for the continent in terms of destination:
“We love Africa because our operations here are by far more than those of any other non-African airlines. I mean, operating from 48 African airports in the 31 countries in our network clearly validates our claim. More than that, we offer the largest number of destination opportunities to Africa bound passengers. And we have even taken further steps to includeMauritius and Madagascar to our list of destinations. In 2015, we had about 14% capacity growth on our Africa routes, flying more than 2.5 million passengers to Africa. Our projection for 2016 is to achieve 27% capacity growth the Africa routes.
“Seychelles, Luanda, Juba, Conakry, Aswan, Luxor are some of our future destinations. Currently 10% of our total revenue is from Africa. And the continent will continue to be a major part of our network in the future”. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says Africa remains one of the only three regions to record positive year-to-date growth in 2015. According to IATA, demand is holding up despite the underperformance of Nigeria and South Africa. Analysts think that what also fuelled growth in Africa is the continent’s growing middle class and low oil price. Others are of the opinion that the African airlines sector has a lot of potential for growth but it is definitely not growing enough.
The indices are not what they expected considering IATA predictions. Kotil’s own thoughts on the African aviation industry are hinged on globalization and the spread of science: “Africa was hugely unaware of the developments that took place in Europe and America prior to the age of information technology. As soon the continent got in the groove, developments started happening and that is what led to the explosion in human potentials. Today, African countries are able to establish their own competitive flag carriers and aviation companies. Airlines with locational, financial and demographical benefits now utilize their competitive advantages.
“And from this point of view, it is safe to say that African airline companies have learned the know-hows through operational experience of the global aviation industry. And these kind of positive improvements make us very happy. With Turkish Airlines having the largest network in Africa, we believe that the African market has great potentials for investment and we believe that Africa will be rising star of the new era with its fast growing economy and population. Currently, the African aviation industry is relatively small when compared to those of Europe, America and Asia. But industry forecasts tell that passenger demand to Africa will triple in 20 years’ time”.
The demand on the African route has always bred competition amongst foreign operators and because of the capital-intensive nature of the airline business, fixed costs and barriers to exit are quite high.
Support of aviation activities
Speaking on the competitiveness of Turkish Airlines on the continent, Kotil says: “With the advantage of our IST Hub and a well-fitting fleet, we connect the African continent to the highest number of destinations in the world than any other airline; thus making the continent to benefit from our competitiveness due to support of aviation activities on the continent. And our emergence as the best airline in Europe means we offer the best product to the market more than all of the existing European carriers”.
In recognition of its competitiveness amongst global airline companies, Turkish Airlines has been very heavy on marketing campaigns.
One of such was the Widen Your World campaign that emphasizes the global network of the airline.
In the campaign, Kobe Bryant ( American basketball player) and Lionel Messi (Argentine professional footballer) resume their friendly rivalry by trading “selfies” from exotic locations, such as the Red Square in Moscow; The Great Wall of China; the Maldives; Bangkok; and Mount Kilimanjaro, all of which are destinations Turkish Airlines flies to.
In recent times, the company is also listed as a premium UEFA EURO 2016 sponsor. Other sponsorships include Euro league, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice film and rugby events some of which are highly acclaimed in Africa.
“Our campaign strategy aims to develop new applications at each phase of the travel, to offer memorable surprises to passengers and to bring them together through innovation and distinctive products and services that makes them feel special and cherished,” Kotil says.
Birth Place\ Date: Rize, Turkey, 1959
Education: 1983: Graduated from the Aeronautical Engineering Department at Istanbul Technical University
1986: Received Master’s degree in Aircraft Engineering from the University in Ann Arbor, Michigan
1987: Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, University of Ann Arbor, Michigan
1991: Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, University of Ann Arbor, Michigan.