After Turkey and Nepal signed an air service agreement (ASA) in 2010, allowing the two countries to operate 14 flights a week, Turkish Airlines started operating regular flights between Istanbul and Kathmandu from September this year.
Voted Europe’s best airline for three consecutive years for the high-quality service it provides to its customers, Turkish Airlines is one of the major international airlines that is operating the first scheduled direct flights between Kathmandu and Europe since Austrian Airlines discontinued its service to Nepal.
Speaking to Nepalnews, General Manager of Turkish Airlines Celal Baykal says that his team is happy to be in Nepal and wants to become the preferred choice for European customers traveling to Nepal. Excerpts of the interview:
1. Turkish Airlines recently started operating flights between Istanbul and Kathmandu? Tell us, what has been your experience and how is the response so far?
We started operating flights between Istanbul and Kathmandu from September 1, 2013, and it feels great to finally show our strong presence in this beautiful country. The airline is offering an alternative route (via Turkey instead of Gulf countries) to those flying to and from various European countries, and we hope it would prove to be a popular choice and contribute to growth of passengers.
The airline is operating roundtrip flights between Istanbul and Kathmandu four times a week -- on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from Istanbul and Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Kathmandu. Turkish Airlines is using Airbus 330 to fly to Kathmandu, which ensures top quality service to passengers at reasonable fare.
Since launching this new route between Istanbul and Kathmandu, Turkish Airlines has been flying in full capacity and experiencing steady growth in passengers flying to and from Nepal. This is a very encouraging sign and a good omen for better things to come. We are confident we would soon feature in the list of top international airlines operating in Nepal.
2. What are your unique selling points (USPs)?
Turkish Airlines currently flies to 241 cities around the world, comprised of 44 domestic and 197 international destinations (spanning 104 countries), making it the world’s fourth biggest carrier in terms of destination. So Nepal stands to benefit tremendously from our vast global network, giving the Himalayan country an excellent connectivity. We hope that this makes us one of the major international airlines operating in Kathmandu.
Plus, the Kathmandu-Istanbul flight, which is 7 hours long, is also the longest non-stop commercial flight from Nepal to Europe. So, Turkish Airlines is giving Nepal seamless connectivity to Europe. Concurrently, it has also become the ideal choice for European customers traveling to Nepal.
Moreover, our Economy Class is the best in the world while Business Class takes luxury hospitality and comfort to a new level with 180 degree flatbed seats and culinary delights prepared by flying chefs.
We have several USPs to our credit and offer our customers very good travel options. The excellent services we provide to our customers have helped us win the title of Europe’s best airline for three consecutive years.
3. What brought Turkish Airlines to Nepal? What would be your focus?
We launched our services here to enhance our Asia-Pacific network. Kathmandu is our 238th destination, and we started operating flights to Kathmandu route in order to fulfill our goal to fly to the largest number of countries around the world.
Turkish Airlines is operating the first scheduled direct flights between Kathmandu and Europe since Austrian Airlines discontinued its service to Nepal. Turkish Airlines wants to bring a lot of people into the country during the tourist season and take more passengers from here to cities across our global network.
4. Nepal relies heavily on its tourism sector to generate employment and keep its economy afloat. How can the arrival of Turkish Airlines help develop the tourism industry of the country?
We want to help Nepal develop its tourism sector by promoting it as a major tourist destination worldwide. We will do this while helping meet the travel demand of Nepali people to other countries to live, work or study. We will work closely with Nepal Tourism Board and our travel partners to promote tourism to this beautiful country. This way we want to make a meaningful contribution to the Nepali economy.
The operation of Turkish Airlines would indeed be a crucial milestone for the country’s tourism sector at a time when Nepal’s national flag carrier has been unable to connect the country to Europe and other leading destination in the world.
5. Tell us about your marketing strategy in Nepal?
Our marketing strategy would be formulated after careful study of the local market. With our expert local staff, we will be engaged in various activities to promote Turkish Airline in the country. Our motto would be to “think globally but act locally”, in order to cater to the local needs. If we are able to understand Nepal and Nepali people better, we would be able to come up with better plans to effectively sell ourselves to the Nepali people.
But of course we would adopt some traditional approaches like working closely with our partners, travel operators and trade associations to enhance our prospects. We would also come up with various promotion fares, discount programmes and other marketing campaigns all through the year to attract customers.
6. How can Turkish Ailines act as a bridge to connect two rich cultures like Nepal and Turkey?
We are confident that the direct connectivity will enhance bilateral, cultural and economic relations between Turkey and Nepal. But we won’t only focus on forging people-to-people connection between the two countries, but also act as a bridge to help Turkish businessmen, traders, tourism entrepreneurs connect with their counterparts in Nepal. We believe this will go a long way in consolidating the bilateral and economic ties between the two countries
Since we started operating direct flights to Nepal, more and more Turkish people have shown interest in learning about Nepal, its rich cultural heritage and natural bounty and expressed interest in visiting this Nepal. So the direct flight between Turkey and Nepal will go a long way in helping the two countries understand each other more.
7. Do you have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes for Nepal?
Turkish Airlines has actively participated in causes that support communities in need across its global network. So in Nepal we plan to get involved in a variety of activities and causes to empower local communities and support grass-root development initiatives to meet our CSR goals. We will actively participate in causes that support orphanages and education projects by working closely with social welfare organisations here.
8. Any plans for expansion in the future?
At the moment we are getting good response from our customers and in the near future we want to gradually increase our frequencies and also operate larger aircraft to meet the seasonal market so that we can serve this route in a better manner and accommodate more passengers.
However, we will take decision regarding this matter after looking at the number of passengers and market demands. For now, we are very happy to be here and hope that our venture will be a huge success. Nepalnews.com