Airlines in Turkey mobilize to aid earthquake victims


Airlines in Turkey have rushed to support rescue and relief efforts following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the country in the early hours of February 6, 2023, provoking wholesale destruction and a massive loss of life. 

In addition to the many military air assets from around the world that have rushed to airlift rescue teams and emergency aid to the affected region, the two main airlines in Turkey have announced a number of exceptional measures to contribute to the ongoing relief efforts. 

Civilian air fleets have proven invaluable, not just in flying emergency personnel immediately after the disaster struck, but also evacuating tens of thousands of victims and people stranded in the most heavily hit areas. 

As the largest airline in the country, Turkish Airlines has deployed a considerable number of aircraft to this task.  

Upon being contacted by AeroTime on February 9, 2023, the country’s flag carrier confirmed that, since the preceding February 6, it had performed 395 flights to the affected area, transporting a total of 68,064 rescue and relief personnel. 66,194 citizens were evacuated in the opposite direction over the course of 89 flights. Another 36 cargo flights delivered 2,520 tons of materiel to support the ongoing rescue efforts. 

These flights will be ongoing for quite some time. Turkish Airlines stated it had already planned for another 172 flights to be operated to the region and anticipated the evacuation of another 28,711 citizens in 183 flights departing flights. 900 tons of material were expected to be delivered to the area on to the region on February 9 alone. 

When it comes to its regular operation, THY is also ensuring ticket changes and cancellations are free of charge for those who had already booked tickets traveling to and from the affected areas.  

Sources at the airline confirmed that they have received multiple requests from international aid and rescue organizations to travel to the affected regions. The airline will airlift free of charge the members of rescue and support missions whose petitions are approved by the Turkish embassies and consulates in their respective countries. 

Pegasus Airlines, the country’s main private airline and second largest, has also joined in these efforts, operating at least 22 relief flights, and 86 civilian passenger flights to and from the affected areas between February 6 and February 8 at 7:00 am local time (the time when this information was last updated). 

Like Turkish Airlines, Pegasus has also suspended or flexibilized conditions that usually apply to their bookings for all passengers travelling or planning to travel over a wide area of the country.  

Domestic flights departing the area most directly affected by the quake, which includes the airports of Adana (ADA), Diyarbakır (DIY), Elazığ (EZS), Gaziantep (GZT), Kayseri (ASR), Malatya (MLX) and Şanlıurfa (GNY), can be booked free of charge between February 7 and 12, 2023. Passengers with existing bookings for Kahramanmaraş (KCM), one of the worst affected areas, can change or cancel their flights for travel between February 6 and 21, 2023 free of charge. 

Humanitarian aid is also being collected by Kızılay (The Turkish Red Crescent) and the local authorities at Pegasus’ hub at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) and then transported free of charge by Pegasus aircraft to the affected areas. 

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