Travel in summer 2022 is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels, according to Turkish Airlines’ head of marketing

More Americans are planning an international trip this summer than at any time since 2019, according to the latest surveys. Slightly more than a third of American travelers say they are comfortable traveling abroad, according to a new survey by Morning Consult — and that’s more than double the number from early January. And Turkish Airlines, the world’s largest airline based on the number of countries it serves, is poised to increase the demand for travel. I recently spoke with Ahmet Olmstur, chief marketing and sales officer of Turkish Airlines, about the upcoming summer holiday season and what travelers in the United States can expect.

But first things first. I had to ask him about this ad with Morgan Freeman.

I think everyone wants to know – is Morgan Freeman a window or a corridor man?

This is the million dollar question! And while Morgan won’t reveal all of his secrets, from our experience with him, our best guess is that he’s a pass man.

Not many Americans know that Turkish Airlines is the largest airline in the world based on the number of countries it serves. Or at least they didn’t until you ran a Super Bowl ad. What are you hiding from us?

Not many travelers know that we offer a unique and free stopover program, which allows them to extend their trip and explore the city of Istanbul. It’s a great way to make up for lost travel time in the last few years and support tourism in Turkey.

Free stop? to anyone?

Well, there are some requirements. You must have a layover of at least 20 hours with Turkish Airlines. Economy class passengers get a voucher for one night at a four-star hotel, while business class passengers get a voucher for two nights at a hotel in Turkey.

While the program was stopped briefly due to the pandemic, since its launch in 2017, more than 57,000 travelers from 42 countries and 108 cities have discovered Istanbul with the stopover service so far, and we will expand to 15 more countries in 2022.

You have another program as well. Tell me about it.

Yes, we are also bringing back our Touristanbul program, which is another free service to discover Istanbul between connecting international flights. After arriving at Istanbul Airport, passengers with a layover of 6 hours or more can simply go to the hotel desk in the international arrival hall to prepare their preferred tour. From touring and touring historical neighborhoods to stopping at an elegant restaurant to sample delicious traditional Turkish and Ottoman cuisine, it is definitely a worthwhile adventure.

Turkish Airlines has added new routes at a time when many airlines have been downsizing during the pandemic. Where are you expanding? Are there any markets in North America where we should look to increase Turkish Airlines presence?

To be sure, demand in North America has grown exponentially. We currently have 11 gates in the US and just announced that we will be expanding our presence in the US by launching our 12th gate, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is the airline’s 335th destination and the first Turkish Airlines gateway in the Pacific Northwest region of the US

Domestic travelers can set their own calendars for Friday, May 27, 2022, when we will officially begin offering service for four flights a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – between Seattle-Tacoma and Istanbul Airport using our popular Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Also, stay tuned for the new Detroit gate launch in Q3, and Denver later this year!

What motivated your expansion? What are the ambitions of Turkish Airlines in the global market?

While we are already present in the majority of major US cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc., we would like to expand our presence in destinations that are eager for more access to international destinations. Simply put, as an airline that flies to more international destinations than any other airline, being a new airline in the Pacific Northwest will open new doors for surrounding communities that want to explore the world.

We always say that our primary mission is to bridge continents, connect countries and unite societies. With our central hub between the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, we have the privilege of reconnecting travelers with loved ones around the world thanks to our extensive network, and we always welcome new opportunities to do so.

You started your career at Turkish Airlines in a call center, so I’m sure you know how important customer service is. How is Turkish Airlines service different from other carriers, when it comes to service? And what makes it better?

Customer service is paramount when it comes to a smooth and positive experience with an airline, whether it’s talking about staff in call centers helping to book passenger flights or solving problems, which I’ve experienced myself, or providing an in-flight service as a flight attendant or​ pilot.

You often hear that Turkish Airlines is known for its world-class service, award-winning cuisine, and world-renowned Turkish hospitality, and we work hard to make sure that is always true. The thing we are very proud of is Flying Chefs, a rare food service that we believe makes traveling with Turkish Airlines a truly special experience.

Chefs are carefully selected based on a variety of client-led culinary skills, and handle the cooking and food preparation of our flights of eight hours or more. They even deliver meals to passenger seats and business class passengers can choose to have their meal by candlelight, the first thing served on board. It’s like being in a restaurant in heaven.

Can you talk about some of the upgrades you’ve made, in terms of onboard service and lounges? How are these changes likely to affect our average North American reader who might be flying to Europe or Asia on Turkish Airlines this summer?

definitely. Something travelers may not know is that Turkish Airlines has one of the most modern fleets of aircraft in the world. We began serving our 787-9 Dreamliners in 2019 and 2020 to various destinations in the United States. As aviation enthusiasts know, this aircraft’s fuel efficiency and range make it one of the most advanced aircraft in aviation today.

Quieter engines, generally more efficient—and I would say, fun—features, like blackout window blinds, often mean more comfort and better sleep on long trips. Another aircraft that has recently joined our fleet is the A350-900. Like the 787 Dreamliners, it has quieter engines and better airframe insulation than some competitors in the market, reducing cabin noise by up to 50% and in return, providing a more comfortable flying experience for our passengers.

My message to travelers: Next time you book a flight to Europe or Asia, take an in-depth look at the Turkish Airlines plane you’ll be traveling on – we’re sure you’ll be impressed.

Maybe we should talk about your new airport in Istanbul. It’s an important upgrade from the old airport.

Yes, every passenger on a Turkish Airlines flight will pass through the state-of-the-art new Istanbul Airport, which is the largest airport terminal built from scratch in the world and is the airline’s new home base.

With a new airport come new modern passenger terminals, to which we’ve had an incredibly positive response. Business class travelers have really enjoyed the combination of Turkish and international rates offered in the lounge, access to private meeting rooms, and for long waiting times, private suites with daybed, shower and bathroom amenities.

Convenience, of course, is a huge factor when planning a business lounge, but also making sure our passengers are entertained while they are off work. Travelers can wear a pair of VR goggles to tour Istanbul’s most popular sites by experiencing the new virtual Heisarfen flight simulator in the CIP Business Lounge, practice their golf swings with the golf simulator, or take their children to the large play area, where PlayStation and other interactive games to pass the time.

Travelers often express frustration with some of the ways airlines price their tickets and try to generate additional fees. Post-pandemic, what do you think are the trends in this space? How are customers’ wishes taken into account in Turkish Airlines?

Surcharges have been part of the flying experience for a long time now, but the pandemic has definitely caused a shift in the conversation when it comes to what’s most important to travelers. For example, for a while, travelers who traveled during the pandemic automatically sat next to them, giving them a little more space than their neighbors, which was a first for airlines. While this practice has ended, some airlines, including Turkish Airlines, are now advertising an option for passengers to purchase the seat next to them.

When it comes to additional functions typical for flights, the thing that Turkish Airlines excels at is the level of hospitality we offer during the onboard experience. We are well aware of how we create our own itinerary offerings for passengers, which can have a huge impact on the overall flight experience. While we take into account the cost of the free meal service on board when pricing the fares, if passengers choose to pay for an additional meal from our special extra menu, the second meal will also be produced to the highest standards and quality. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback letting us know that we’ve been successful in this department, both before and after the pandemic.

This summer is shaping up to be an interesting summer, as the situation in Ukraine and Covid-19 remains problematic. Do you have any tips for passengers as they plan their trips?

If the past two years have shown us anything, it is that the world is unpredictable. Pay attention to ticket flexibility options when planning your trip. Do your best to stay on top of what’s happening in the area you’re traveling to, whether it’s checking your itinerary for the most up-to-date travel restrictions, researching opening hours, or the requirements of the museum you want to count down visiting days. While it’s unpredictable, the world is ready to connect with each other again, and we’ll be here to support you when it’s you, too.

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