The big leak: Which airports are on Turkish Airlines’ route network shopping list?

From the desk of Turkish Airlines’ President and CEO Dr Temel Kotil: The airports on a hit-list of new routes to serve Turkish Airlines’ Global Mega Hub next year.

From the desk of Turkish Airlines’ President and CEO Dr Temel Kotil: The airports on a hit-list of new routes to serve Turkish Airlines’ Global Mega Hub next year.

Turkish Airlines has grand ambitions to create the “largest airline on Earth”. That’s what its President and CEO, Dr Temel Kotil told’s Publisher, Paul J. Hogan, back in June 2010. Nearly 30 months on, its growth continues unabated, with two further points being added this week to Turkish’s burgeoning Istanbul Atatürk hub – Kilimanjaro and Mombasa It has FIVE more to launch before 2012 closes: No other mainline airline in Europe comes close to this growth.

TK hub explained in <100 words

In his 2010 interview with, Kotil explained that his vision was to copy the success of Emirates, but with a vital difference: Istanbul is far closer to 100 or so major regional airports in Europe – airports like Bologna, Gothenburg or Bremen. These can’t support Emirates’ 777 widebody services, but they can be served by Turkish’s 160 single aisle 737-7/8/900 and A319/320/321 fleets – as can other airports to the south and east – Tel Aviv, Djibouti, Amman, Mogadishu, Benghazi etc. In essence, when it comes to equipment (and fuel) Istanbul might well be about the most efficient place in the world to have an omni-directional Global Mega Hub (GMH).

That’s all sounds very clever, but does it actually work? The information obtained by suggests it does:

Destination Load Factor IST origin traffic vs transfer Top 5 Intl. inbound transfer markets
Bangkok 78% 42% vs 58% ARN, CPH, GOT, TLV, HEL
Beijing 73% 29% vs 71% ODS, TLV, OTP, ATH, CDG
Chicago 82% 47% vs 53% TLV, BOM, ADD, NBO, IKA
Delhi 75% 23% vs 77% TLV, BCN, IAD, TXL, CPH
Dhaka 79% 11% vs 89% MXP, TIP, IAD, ARN, YYZ
Dubai 82% 36% vs 64% PRN, SKP, HEL, ARN, CDG
Guangzhou 71% 27% vs 73% TLV, ODS, OTP, ALG, KBP
Hong Kong 75% 50% vs 50% TLV, OTP, ATH, VCE, ODS
Islamabad 73% 25% vs 75% IAD, OSL, ARN, DUB, YYZ
Johannesburg 79% 33% vs 67% SOF, CPH, ARN, MXP, TXL
Karachi 89% 41% vs 59% ORD, IAD, YYZ, LAX, DUB
Lagos 77% 27% vs 73% LHR, TLV, MXP, DUB, ATH
Los Angeles 77% 47% vs 53% IKA, BEY, TLV, BOM, AMM
Mumbai 82% 24% vs 76% TLV, ARN, LHR, IAD, ORD
New York 78% 58% vs 42% TLV, IKA, NBO, BEY, GYD
Osaka 71% 50% vs 50% BCN, CDG, FCO, TLV, MUC
Sao Paulo 71% 36% vs 64% BEY, ATH, TLV, DEL, PVG
Seoul 78% 34% vs 66% ATH, FCO, BCN, CDG, TLV
Shanghai 80% 37% vs 63% TLV, OTP, MXP, ODS, BCN
Singapore 86% 32% vs 68% ODS, FCO, TLV, OTP, KBP
Tokyo 74% 68% vs 32% CAI, TLV, BCN, ATH, MXP
Toronto 83% 34% vs 66% IKA, AMM, JED, MHD, CAI
Washington 74% 39% vs 61% BOM, DEL, IKA, ADD, DAC
Source: Leaked from Turkish Airlines. Data from year ending June 2012.

How to build a GMH

The table tells us that Dhaka, Delhi and Mumbai represent the three services which are most reliant on transfer traffic, with Washington Dulles featuring in the top five of all three points, thereby proving the value of having transatlantic feed to three of biggest Indian Sub-Continent routes. The markets that are primarily Istanbul O&D are New York JFK and Tokyo Narita – unsurprisingly both routes were among the first destinations served when Turkish began long-haul services following the arrival of its A310s in the late-1980s.

Tel Aviv #1 feeder to IST long-haul hub

In particular the Istanbul hub seems to be really successful in taking business away from El Al. Despite there being direct El Al 747-400s flights to New York JFK (nine weekly), Bangkok (6w), Hong Kong (5w), Mumbai (4w 767-300s), Los Angeles (3w 777s) and Korean Air’s thrice-weekly 777s to Seoul Incheon, Tel Aviv is the most prevalent transfer traffic provider to Turkish’s GMH, charting 16 times out of the 23 surveyed routes. This is hardly surprising as Tel Aviv has the highest frequency of any international route in the Turkish network, with 32 weekly flights in December 2012. However, the remaining 10 routes are currently unserved from the Israeli airport and therefore represent an opportunity for new direct services.

It’s a big drop to the #2 airport – Stockholm Arlanda – which is recorded just six times in comparison. Of the recorded transfers – Bangkok, Dubai, Dhaka, Islamabad, Johannesburg and Mumbai – only two are directly connected with Stockholm – Bangkok (Thai Airways/Daily) and Dubai (3w by Norwegian). Clearly the unserved direct demand to Bangkok from Sweden – starkly illustrated in Turkish’s figures – provides Norwegian with the obvious rationale for starting 787 services to the Thai capital next June.

Meanwhile, if some of the averages that the Turkish GMH is achieving are applied to its new long-haul route – the recently launched Malé service – then the expected load factor will be 78%; Istanbul-originating traffic will be 37% with the remainder derived from transfer originating from Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Athens, Barcelona, Milan, Washington and Tehran.

Tehran proves hard to get to

Indeed Tehran Imam Khomeini looks like being Tel Aviv’s unlikely twin as a potential key source market for the hub, as when looking at the feed into Istanbul from Europe it is the Iranian capital that is registered in 20 out of the 23 sample airports. This result comes despite five of the 20 airports already having direct flights to Tehran with Iran Air A300s to London Heathrow (thrice weekly) and Frankfurt (3w), and its A310s operating to Cologne (1w), Hamburg (2w) and Vienna (1w).

Origin Load Factor IST destination traffic vs transfer Top 5 Intl. outbound transfer markets
Amsterdam 78% 55% vs 45% JED, MED, KBL, AMM, GYD
Barcelona 70% 55% vs 45% DEL, BEY, ICN, IKA, DXB
Belgrade 72% 45% vs 55% DXB, GYD, KWI, DOH, BEY
Berlin 81% 54% vs 46% IKA, GYD, BEY, DEL, BOM
Bremen 80% 72% vs 28% IKA, GYD, BEY, AMM, DEL
Cologne 80% 68% vs 32% IKA, GYD, TBZ, MHD, DXB
Dusseldorf 83% 67% vs 33% AMM, JED, GYD, PVG, DEL
Frankfurt 84% 61% vs 39% TBS, KBL, IKA, GYD, FRU
Gatwick 75% 63% vs 37% IKA, BOM, ISU, KRT, EBL
Hamburg 78% 50% vs 50% BEY, MHD, IKA, DEL, TLV
Hanover 80% 55% vs 45% IKA, BEY, JED, AMM, PEK
Heathrow 82% 63% vs 37% LOS, BOM, BGW, IKA, TBS
Lisbon 72% 49% vs 51% DXB, BEY, IKA, TLV, PVG
Madrid 69% 54% vs 46% BEY, DEL, ICN, IKA, PEK
Malaga 64% 51% vs 49% IKA, KWI, DXB, BEY, DOH
Munich 79% 61% vs 39% IKA, BEY, GYD, PVG, TLV
Nuremberg 76% 55% vs 45% IKA, DEL, GYD, DXB, TLV
Paris (CDG) 77% 54% vs 46% MED, JED, IKA, AMM, DXB
Stuttgart 81% 64% vs 36% TLV, PVG, PEK, IKA, DXB
Tel Aviv 75% 48% vs 52% JFK, PVG, PEK, BOM, DEL
Valencia 62% 56% vs 44% BEY, PVG, IKA, PEK, DXB
Vienna 71% 56% vs 44% BEY, JED, TBS, PVG, IKA
Zagreb 76% 48% vs 52% ICN, DXB, DOH, CAI, IKA
Zurich 75% 57% vs 43% IKA, ICN, BEY, PVG, GYD
Source: Leaked from Turkish Airlines. Data from year ending June 2012.

With its large Turkish expatriate community Germany dominates in terms of the routes that are the least reliant on transfer traffic, with Bremen (which started in April), Cologne and Düsseldorf topping the table. Zagreb features alongside Tel Aviv when it comes to this sample of European markets that provide the most onward feed to Turkish’s GMH, however with 55% of traffic transferring, it is Belgrade that steals the crown, although this transfer market may however take a hit following the launch of Qatar Airways’ own Belgrade service last month.

Aside from Beirut and Baku which also feature highly, Emirates’ European network planners would do well to refer to the list of 10 airports where Dubai is an important onward market, particularly as seven of them – Belgrade, Cologne, Malaga, Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Valencia and Zagreb – are currently unserved by the MEB3 carrier.

Curiously its three routes from Spain also have the lowest and, indeed, sub-70% load factors: Valencia (62%) and Málaga (64%), as well as Madrid (69%).

Of course for the successful GMH model to continue to develop and thrive, Turkish needs to continually add spokes. Looking at the routes above the airline is seemingly continuing to focus on points with little or no direct long-haul flights as well as those far flung destinations like Colombo, Manila, Montreal and San Francisco that have the ability to draw traffic from an increasingly disparate global diaspora.

June 2010: Turkish Airlines’ President and CEO Dr Temel Kotil tells publisher Paul J. Hogan how his Istanbul Global Mega Hub will create “the largest airline on Earth.”

June 2010: Turkish Airlines’ President and CEO Dr Temel Kotil tells publisher Paul J. Hogan how his Istanbul Global Mega Hub will create “the largest airline on Earth.” Since then Kotil has been good to his word, launching far more routes than any other non-low cost airline. Statistics obtained by and published here indicate that Istanbul is truly operating as a Global Mega Hub.


  1. Good article, and very interesting data. Perhaps you should register “” as a domain!

    Regarding forthcoming TK destinations, the S2013 slot allocation list from Dutch slot coordination (released 2 days ago) rather interestingly shows that TK has been awarded slots for a daily service from Rotterdam:

  2. Johan says:

    Alicante (ALC), Seville (SVQ), Rotterdam (RTM), Marseille (MRS), should be next.

  3. Mark says:

    Fascinating data. Would be great if you were able to obtain such info for other airports in future!

  4. James Pearson says:

    Very interesting article. Thanks!

  5. Daniel says:

    Very interesting aricle and data, how did you clean
    the column for domestic transfers “IST destination traffic vs transfer”?, would Turkey as a whole with domestic destinations included not have a higher percentage proportion vs. transfer?

    • Our “leaked” information did not distinguish between domestic and international feed. It is therefore unclear as to whether this component of the hub’s traffic is included in IST originating traffic, has been kept completely separate or has been disregarded.

  6. James says:

    This is hardly a big leak.

    Its nothing more than MIDT data widely available.

    Any airline worth anything collects this stuff on competitors and market share and track this type of city pair sales and traffic flow.

    The information is widely sold by parties such as IATA and host of private data providors.

    • Marc Watkins says:

      We thought a list of previously unannounced route launches was a pretty big leak that was not that widely known and something that our readers would be interested in. Also many of our readers at smaller airports don’t have access to MIDT data.

    • Emmanuel says:

      Thank you for the free data and the great analysis!
      @James : who does collect and anlyse this data at airlines? Are the network planner doing this job? The revenue managers?

  7. James Pearson says:

    Some others:

    Airport; LF; terminal-v-transit; and top-5 intl markets

    Milan; 73%; 65% v 35%; IKA, DEL, PVG, AMM, GYD
    Rome; 72%; 49% v 51%; ICN, IKA, SIN, GYD, BOM
    Venice; 70%; 50% v 50%; PVG, DEL, DAC, IKA, ICN

  8. Peter B says:

    It is interesting that THY management likes to talk about future plans so openly. They even file info about planned future routes in Turkish stock market filings.

    As far as the connection traffic statistics, yes its interesting, but as someone noted its not some secret info.

    At my previous job, our employee newsletter would even publish these things for everyone to see as they profiled different markets in each issue.
    As I recall even things like average fare info, down to individual travel agent sales would be tracked on competitors with the available in the MIDT data.

  9. Mennix says:

    I do not really understand, why Manila does not makes a No. 1 destination The only direct flying airline from Eurpe is KLM. There must be place for a second one. Would love to see TK entering it

  10. James Pearson says:

    Another in case anyone’s interested:

    Brussels / 74% / 59 vs 41% / JED, AMM, MED, IKA, DXB

  11. Abhijith says:

    You guys forgot to cross out CMB! They are commencing services to it in Feb via MLE…

  12. Adam says:

    Turkish Airlines have also revealed that they are looking to launch Istanbul to Sydney direct routes in the near future.

Comments are closed