SunExpress, a joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa, said on Tuesday that summer bookings for Türkiye jumped as of this month after a brief drop following the catastrophic earthquakes that jolted the southeastern region.
The airline will add 26 new routes this summer and expects to carry more than 12 million passengers by the end of the year, CEO Max Kownatzki said on the sidelines of a news conference in Istanbul.
The new additions will mark SunExpress’ largest network expansion in its history.
Within days after the Feb. 6 massive earthquakes that killed more than 48,000 people and left millions homeless in southeastern Türkiye, bookings fell by 50%, Kownatzki said.
"Within the first week right after the earthquake we have seen significant demand drops, roughly 50-52% in international demand,” he noted.
“But in a week or two, we had an uptick in demand...We saw the hit for roughly 10 days and after those 10 days, demand has absolutely recovered," Kownatzki said.
"According to beginning of March numbers, we had 60% higher advanced bookings than last year."
Kownatzki stressed they were confident in Türkiye’s “unwavering strength to recover quickly.”
“In order to support this recovery, we have focused on promoting Türkiye and Turkish tourism abroad even more intensively as Türkiye's tourism ambassador.”
Antalya-based SunExpress carried a record 10.7 million passengers, mainly between Türkiye and European countries, last year with an 85% load factor, exceeding the pre-pandemic levels, according to information provided at the news conference.
The carrier also achieved a record 1.49 billion euros (around $1.6 billion) in revenue and 85 million euros in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) in 2022, it said.
Foreign arrivals in Türkiye surged 80.33% year-over-year to 44.6 million in 2022, just shy of the peak of 45.1 million in 2019. The figure contrasted with the 24.71 million arrivals in 2021 and 12.73 million in 2020.
Tourism revenues jumped 53.4% to a record $46.3 billion last year, blowing past the previous high of $38.4 billion in 2019 before the pandemic hit.
The government expects foreign arrivals to reach 60 million this year and sees revenues rising to $56 billion.
Kownatzki said Sunexpress is expected to achieve 1.63 billion euros in revenue and 80.1 million euros in EBIT this year.
"We have a lot of volatility on inflation, fuel and foreign exchange. That's why we are conservative in that assumption," he said, adding that the company was implementing successful hedging strategies for fuel and foreign exchange.
SunExpress operates flights to 60 destinations in 30 countries and more than 185 routes from Türkiye. The carrier will increase its seat capacity by 13% this year, Kownatzki said, adding that the company will operate with a fleet of 66 aircraft this season.