SunExpress doubles capacity to Turkey for this summer

Leisure carrier SunExpress has almost doubled its UK capacity to Turkey this summer in a boost to operators and agents seeking flights.

The airline, jointly owned by Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, has flown between Germany and Turkey for more than 30 years but only entered the UK in summer 2022. However, it has expanded from operating 74 weekly flights from the UK last year to 136 this summer, increasing seat capacity by 87% to 1.32 million.

SunExpress carried 700,000 passengers from the UK last year, with 40% booked through tour operators. The remaining capacity is mostly seat only, sold direct, but the airline is bookable via GDS.

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The carrier has also expanded the number of UK airports it serves. Having launched from Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester in 2022, it added Bristol and Newcastle for summer 2023 and Leeds Bradford and Stansted this year.

It offers 80 flights a week to Antalya, 39 to Dalaman, 15 to Izmir, and one each to Adana and Gaziantep.

Max Kownatzki, SunExpress chief executive, said the tour operator segment of the business “has grown” and explained: “We do no individual deals [with operators], But if you buy more seats, you get a bigger discount.”

He told Travel Weekly “we consider ourselves a value carrier, not low cost”, and suggested: “The combination of Turkish hospitality with German thinking has made the company successful.”

SunExpress will operate a fleet of 77 aircraft this summer, 10 more than last year when it carried 12.6 million passengers across its network, and expects to carry 15 million this year. Kownatzki plans to operate 100 aircraft by 2028 and 150 by 2035.

Despite being half-owned by Turkish Airlines, 90% of SunExpress revenue is generated in the EU and 85% in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The airline operates a wholly Boeing fleet, but Kownatzki dismissed concerns about safety following the mid-air blow-out of a door plug on a Boeing 737 Max-9 aircraft in January. SunExpress does not operate the Max-9. However, Boeing aircraft deliveries have been delayed following the incident.

Kownatzki acknowledged “any delay to deliveries before summer would affect us badly” but said: “We’ve secured all the aircraft we need for this year.”

The SunExpress chief was due to speak at the Aviation Club in London on Wednesday (April 17).

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