Turkish Airlines on Monday announced its second big widebody aircraft order of the month, with plans to buy 15 additional Boeing Co. 777-300ER jets to help boost its network to 250 destinations by 2015.
Traffic at Turkish Airlines, which currently serves 202 cities, soared 27% in the first nine months of the year to cement its position as the fastest-growing flag carrier in the world, eclipsing expansion by its three large Persian Gulf-based rivals.
The number of passengers transferring through its Istanbul hub climbed 31% in the first six months of the year from the same period in 2011 as it takes advantage of its geographical position to funnel traffic from Europe, the Americas and Asia through the Middle East and Africa.
Unlike Gulf-based rivals such as Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, Istanbul's proximity to Western European markets allowed it to fly single-aisle planes from its hub rather than larger jets, making it easier to launch flights to smaller cities.
It also has the benefit of a large domestic market to fuel its long-haul expansion.
The latest Boeing order, which includes options for five more planes, will see the additional 777-300ERs arrive between 2014 and 2017, adding to an existing fleet of 12. Earlier this month, the airline ordered 15 additional Airbus 330-300s widebody jets, with the first slated for delivery in 2014. It had a fleet of 194 planes at June 30, with 31 more narrowbody jets due to arrive by 2015.
The two widebody orders are valued at $8.3 billion at list prices, though deals of this scale typically attract large discounts.
Turkish Airlines, measured by traffic, ended 2011 less than half the size of Emirates and slightly smaller than Qatar Airways, but it expects to carry more than 38 million passengers this year with a growth rate that should see it advance into the global top 15.
The rapid expansion of its connecting passenger business has escaped the criticism directed by some rivals at the three Gulf carriers, which are accused of being unfairly subsidized by their governments—a charge they deny.
Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star global marketing alliance alongside Deutsche Lufthansa AG, one of the fiercest critics of the Gulf carriers' growth. It also runs a joint-venture leisure airline with the German flag carrier.
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