‘Turkish Airline is increasing connectivity within Africa with services, special offerings’

by Ifeoma Okeke

October 5, 2017 | 1:17 am
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Tarkan Ince is the General Manager, Turkish Airline, Lagos. In an interview with Ifeoma Okeke, he talks on how the airline is leveraging on its services and offerings to grow connectivity within Africa. Excerpts:

How long has Turkish Airlines been operating in Nigeria and how has the experience been so far?

Turkish Airlines launched its operations to Nigeria in 2006. It’s been 11 years now and today we have daily flights both from Lagos and Abuja. Nigeria is a unique country and it has its own dynamics; sometimes you have to face tough situations.  However, Nigeria possesses a huge potential with its resources, human power and intelligence to overcome any problem. With this sincere belief we carry on to provide the best service and investment as much as we can.

Despite the numerous challenges faced by the industry, how has the company been able to maintain top-notch service and business growth?

If you take a look at Turkish Airlines last 14 years you will witness continuous growth on the level of two digit figures even during the aviation crises. Turkish Airlines vision and agile applications in understanding of the industry, from passenger needs and trends in varying markets, and commitment to outstanding customer service, to ensuring efficiency across our entire aviation ecosystem led us to where we are today. We keep up quality of service even in tough times. We never set our operations back. By investing to human resources and enhancing its services, we are keeping to effort to be the best airline in the world. With the unique position of İstanbul we fly to 50 countries less than 3 hours.  Indeed, our flight network is unmatched as the only airline in the world that covers 120 countries with over 300 international destinations.

As winner of the Best Airline of Europe awards between 2011-2016, what sets your airline apart in the aviation industry?

We are proud to say we are in a league of our own and the awards we consistently own prove this. With efficient operations, we offer full package products to the delight of our esteemed passengers. As one of the fastest growing airlines in the world , Turkish Airlines connects the East and West .We are the best at giving connectivity across the world by flying to 300 destinations and 120 countries

Africa is the world’s second fastest-growing destination for international air traffic, what are the value added services available to passengers who choose Turkish Airlines?

As a fast developing continent on the move, with several emerging economies like Nigeria, Africa is crucially important to Turkish Airlines. In fact, we are the continent’s top international air carrier with 52 destinations served in Africa, and this number is likely to rise as Africa’s growth gains pace.

In order to reduce the stress of international travel we created a hub in Istanbul for connecting flights from Africa to and from other continents. For instance; travel time from Nigeria to the US is about 24 hours; with a stopover in Istanbul, passengers can get much-needed rest at accommodations provided for long-haul customers. In addition, Economy passengers are entitled to get one day complimentary stay in Istanbul in a four star hotel while Business Class passengers can get two night complimentary stay in a five star hotel. This offer is available to all destinations excluding Europe. These are just a few of our wide range of value-added services available to our Nigerian and African passengers traveling internationally.

Connectivity is the most critical aspect in air travel. With 300 destinations, Turkish Airlines connects the world via Istanbul hub. There is a new airport being built in Istanbul. Its first phase will be operational in 2018. When all phases are complete, it will host 200 million passengers a year.

We also try to enhance this high connectivity index with special offerings such as “Touristanbul”, “Istanbul Stopover” and others. Crowning these services are loyalty and corporate program benefits.

What unique services do you offer passengers on-board Turkish Airlines?

Turkish Airlines offers a most comfortable journey to their passengers. We provide a range of special inflight services. Some of these include a vast range of choice, delicious meals prepared by top chefs across our extensive network of routes; an assorted inflight entertainment system; high-speed Wi-Fi. Our unique service is our flying chefs who present to our business passengers with the finest examples of Turkish and world cuisine. Our business passengers could enjoy with our award-winning dining on board service, which was voted the Skytrax World’s Best Business Class Airline Catering. In addition to these, we have specially designed headphones which our passengers could enjoy more by watching latest films or music. 

Our lounge at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Lounge Istanbul, a winner of many awards worldwide, is one of the largest in the world and even larger than some airports. In addition, we are a member of Star Alliance, an international alliance of 28 global airlines.

Some airlines use multiple destinations and prices to attract tourists to their home country, how are you attracting Nigerians to Turkey?

To attract Nigerian tourists to our home country, there are exciting tour packages by Turkish agencies. We also have plans for passengers who stopover in Istanbul to tour and explore the beauty of İstanbul. We have special value added offerings such as “touristanbul”, and “Istanbul Stopover” as well as various loyalty schemes and corporate programs, we are sure Nigerians love. We look forward to having more passengers include Turkey in their itinerary to experience our rich heritage.

As I have said, the travel time to US destinations from Nigeria may reach 24 hours. For these cases, we have designed programs to ease the exhaustion and flight stress. When certain conditions are met, our economy passengers are entitled to get one day complimentary stay in Istanbul in a four star hotel where as Business Class passengers can get two night complimentary stay in a five star hotel. Therefore, the passenger can rest and take their flight the next day all freshened up.

How do you consistently maintain and improve your customers’ experience?

Through its network of 300 destinations around the world, Turkish Airlines strives to innovate and offer the most comfortable and reliable travel experience for our guests. Airlines do need an approach to the market that reflects the passengers’ needs.  Knowing that customer experience impacts the willingness of a customer to be a loyal advocate of the company, Turkish Airlines has perfectly integrated customer management in its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies. This way, investments are being made in customer experiences. In this regard, the company has positive feedbacks from our guests concerning Turkish Airlines high-end services from check-in at the airport to inflight services as well and we are grateful for Turkish Airlines being awarded “Best Airline in Europe” between 2011 and 2016, “Best Airline in Southern Europe” by Skytrax and was certified “5 Star Global Airlines” by Apex Official Airline Rating in 2017.

There is a recent story in the news about a passenger who had a bad experience with you. What happened?

As customers become even more empowered, the importance of customer experience increases accordingly. As a common process, Turkish Airlines’ well trained and committed staff abroad and CRM Management successfully capture customer feedback in real time and act accordingly by contacting or meeting the guest when necessary with a greater focus on its experience.

We had a passenger traveling on a mid-range flight from India to Abuja who wanted to access a special lounge service reserved for passengers on long-haul flights (8 hours single flight duration or above). When explained in detail by the CIP Lounge staff in Istanbul the passenger unfortunately was not happy, as his situation did not fit in that category. He chose to make a recording from his own perspective and decided to share that publicly. At this point, I can say without hesitation that all constructive complaints motivates us to do better. However, I have to state that his words do not fall into the category of complaint but accusation therefore it is a legal case actually. But before moving into that phase we wanted to be sure that the recording actually belonged to the passenger himself.

Therefore, the passenger was met and greeted in Abuja by our station manager. It was a short communication and the passenger did not mention anything about the recording. So we decided to reach him on his return. When reached a second time he confirmed that the recording belonged to him. Then all rules and regulations were explained in detail once again. He said that he will do another recording to correct his statements. On his return he was met and greeted by Turkish Airlines Istanbul staff. He stayed two days in Istanbul and returned to India; hitherto he still did not release his second recording. So to reiterate, we are always seeking to improve our services under actual facts.

What are the expansion plans of Turkish Airlines that will ensure travel that is more convenient for Nigerian passengers?

We are trying to grow as much as we can in Nigeria taking into consideration the various factors including passenger interest in traveling out of particular airports and allocation of our fleet. We have the interests of Nigerian passengers at heart and want to offer as many Nigerians as possible, the most competitive travel packages and benefits. Watch out for exciting news about our expansion plans in Nigeria. For Nigeria, we are working on some major projects that will delight the traveling public in Africa. We will unveil them in good time comes.


by Ifeoma Okeke

October 5, 2017 | 1:17 am
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