More destinations, lower airfares: Turkish Airlines’ Australian debut bolstered by extra flights

Direct flights between Istanbul and Melbourne will begin in March.

Direct flights between Istanbul and Melbourne will begin in March. Photo: Turkish Airlines

One of the world’s biggest airlines is finally coming to Australia – and before it’s even touched down, the government has already expanded the number of flights the carrier will be allowed to conduct.

Turkish Airlines, which already services 270 destinations around the world, will be able to conduct up to 21 flights per week between Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Western Sydney and Turkey from 2024 onwards.

This is a steep jump from the previously approved seven weekly flights, and the number is set to increase even further.

A spokesperson from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts told TND the updated arrangements “reflect that Australia and Türkiye share strong cultural, historical and people-to-people links” which aviation supports”.

“The new arrangements with Türkiye will phase in an increase in available capacity for airlines from both countries over the next two years, including allowing for fifth freedom traffic rights for airlines of both countries,” they said.

“This will encourage the operation of services between our two countries for the first time.”

What further changes are coming?

From October 2024, the number of Turkish Airlines flights to and from Australia allowed per week will rise from 21 to 28, and from March 2025 will further rise to 35 weekly flights.

Also in 2025, Turkish Airlines will be granted “unrestricted capacity, frequency and aircraft type” to and from select destinations in Turkey, including an airport about 20 minutes’ drive from Cappadocia, a region known for hot air balloon rides and ‘fairy chimneys’.

The same year, Turkey’s national carrier will be granted fifth freedom traffic rights at two intermediate points of choice, which the airline has yet to select.

This means it will be able to take passengers to and from destinations, such as Singapore, without having to take off from or land in Turkey.

What does this mean for Australians?

As ever, more competition will likely lead to better prices.

Australian Travel Industry Association CEO Dean Long said with the country still seeing record-high airfares above pre-pandemic levels, more airlines should be encouraged to service Australia to allow Australians to travel the world “in the most effective and high-value way”.

In addition to easing airfares for certain destinations, the local launch of Turkish Airlines could provide Australian travellers with more destination options.

One such success story has already been seen with South Korea, as recent additions to capacity between Sydney and Seoul have led to higher volumes of travellers passing through both ways.

“We all know that increased competition does lead to lower airfares for anybody looking to travel,” Long said.

“And what it also allows us to do is get additional routes into some destinations outside of the key hubs that we traditionally fly into.”

Although many Australians are familiar with layovers at aviation hubs such as Singapore Changi Airport and Dubai International Airport, Turkey’s Istanbul Airport is also “a really critical” access point to different parts of the world.

“Having some of those secondary hubs opens up new destinations for Australians to visit, and also for Australia to receive international visitors from,” Long said.

“So [more access to Istanbul Airport] could minimise the number of stops that Australians have to do to [get to] destinations that previously might have been a three- or four-stop. You can maybe now do that in only one.”

Similar benefits would have resulted from Qatar Airways’ proposal to to double its 28 weekly services to Australia; a proposal that was ultimately denied amid opposition from Qantas.

A Senate inquiry into the government’s decision to deny Qatar Airways’ extra capacity heard granting the extra flights into Australia would have delivered cheaper airfares and a $1 billion boost in tourism.

“One of the things that we’ve put forward to the parliamentary inquiry is that we need to have that transparent national interest test,” Long said.

“It’s great that Turkish Airways has been approved to come here, but we still are very supportive of Qatar being granted those additional rights.”

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