Turkish Airlines is finally able to start making preparations to begin flights between Istanbul (IST) and Australia as early as March 2024 following the Australian federal government approving a total of 21 flights per week with immediate effect.
The approval covers not only Sydney (SYD) and Melbourne (MEL) services, both of which Turkish Airlines has long planned to add to its network map but opens up the possibility of flights to Brisbane (BNE), Perth (PER), and the new Western Sydney airport which is due to open in 2026.
Despite the Turkish carrier having only requested 14 services per week between the two countries, the approval grants permission for 21 flights in total, representing something of an early Christmas gift for the Istanbul-based carrier. Looking further ahead, the permission allows room for even further growth, with 28 services per week permitted from October 2024 rising to 35 per week from October 2025.
This will allow Turkish Airlines to not only fulfill its primary goal of operating daily flights to both Sydney and Melbourne but also to consider other gateways sooner than expected.
Crucially, as Turkish Airlines initially plans to operate to Australian cities via Singapore, the agreement allows the airline to sell stop-over routes individually, such as Istanbul to Singapore or Sydney to Singapore. The wording of the permission states that the “designated airline may exercise fifth freedom traffic rights at two intermediate points of choice in South Asia, Southeast Asia and/or the Middle East.” Turkish Airlines executives have previously stated that so-called ‘fifth freedom’ rights would be a critical commercial factor in the launch of the new route.
“We will commence flights to Australia between March 15 and 25, 2024,” Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat reportedly told Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkish Airlines has also announced that Australian actress Margot Robbie (most recently seen starring in the 2023 blockbuster ‘Barbie’ movie) might become a new brand ambassador for the airline, in what would be a shrewd target to capitalize on the launch of Australian flights.
“We are currently in discussions with Australian actress Margot Robbie,” Bolat added. “We plan to bring her to Turkey a week before the flight and explore various places, including the historic site of Göbeklitepe.”
Previous global advertising campaigns from Turkish Airlines have featured brand ambassadors such as sportsmen Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi and actors Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.
Although the airline now has the permission it needs to begin flights to both Sydney and Melbourne in early 2024, a final decision is still awaited as to what form the launch of flights to Australia will take.
It is expected that Sydney will be first, as that market offers the largest concentration of Turkish diaspora in Australia. The airline previously announced it would probably kick things off with three flights weekly to Sydney via Singapore (SIN) using Boeing 787 Dreamliners. However, the airline intends to ramp up the frequency from three to five flights per week quickly and eventually hopes to operate daily flights to both Sydney and Melbourne.
Although the first flights using the 787 will operate via Singapore due to range limitations of the type, the recent announcement that the airline has ordered 15 A350-1000s means that the carrier will be able to operate non-stop flights between Turkey and Australia eradicating the need to refuel in Singapore.
The 9,375 miles (15,000km) distance between Sydney/Melbourne and Istanbul falls well within the range of the standard A350-1000, especially since Airbus recently boosted the twinjet’s range to almost 10,312 miles (16,500km).
It is also the Airbus A350-1000 that forms the basis for Qantas’ planned nonstop ultra-long-haul flight that will connect Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York sometime in either 2024 or 2025, although final launch details remain unannounced.