Turkish Airlines to increase flights in Australia

The Australian federal government has granted approval for Turkish Airlines to significantly expand its flights into the country, allowing the airline to increase its weekly flights from the previously approved seven to 35 by 2025. This move follows the rejection of a similar bid by Qatar Airways a few months ago, which drew criticism from the opposition.

Turkish Airlines is set to launch services in Australia in early 2024, introducing direct flights between Australia’s east coast and its hub in Istanbul. The updated government register indicates a starting point of 21 weekly flights to or from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and western Sydney, with plans to increase to 28 flights per week by mid-2024 and 35 by mid-2025.

According to an infrastructure department spokesperson, the increased capacity will encourage the operation of services between the two countries, leveraging the strong cultural, historical, and people-to-people links between Australia and Turkey. The agreement includes the provision of “fifth freedom” rights for Turkish Airlines, allowing them to operate at two points in Asia or the Middle East between Istanbul and Australia. This arrangement enables travelers to fly a single leg of their journey rather than the entire trip, potentially expanding travel options for Australians to other hubs in Asia or the Middle East.

In July, the federal government rejected Qatar Airways’ bid for additional flights, leading to accusations from the opposition that the government was protecting Qantas. The government maintained that such decisions were made in the national interest, with Transport Minister Catherine King referencing the treatment of Australian women subjected to inspections at Doha airport in 2020 as part of the context for the decision.

Despite a Senate inquiry recommending a review of the decision and calling for an expanded role for the consumer watchdog in the sector, King dismissed it as a political stunt by the opposition.

The expansion of Turkish Airlines’ flights into Australia signifies a strategic move in enhancing air connectivity between the two countries and expanding travel options for passengers. The increased capacity is expected to foster economic and cultural ties, tapping into the strong historical and people-to-people links shared by Australia and Turkey.

The decision to grant Turkish Airlines the right to operate 35 weekly flights by 2025 comes in the wake of the rejection of a similar bid by Qatar Airways. The government’s move has been met with scrutiny and accusations of protecting domestic carriers, particularly Qantas, from increased competition. The rejection of Qatar Airways’ bid in July prompted criticism from the opposition, alleging that a more competitive airline landscape could contribute to reduced travel prices.

The provision of “fifth freedom” rights for Turkish Airlines is a noteworthy aspect of the agreement, allowing the airline to operate at two points in Asia or the Middle East between Istanbul and Australia. This arrangement offers travelers greater flexibility, enabling them to choose specific legs of their journey rather than committing to the entire route. Such flexibility could open up new travel possibilities for Australians to connect through other hubs in Asia or the Middle East.

While the government maintains that its decisions are made in the national interest, previous controversies, such as the treatment of Australian women subjected to inspections at Doha airport in 2020, have been cited as factors influencing these aviation decisions. The rejection of Qatar Airways’ bid sparked calls for a review and an expanded role for the consumer watchdog in the aviation sector.

As the aviation landscape continues to evolve, decisions on international flight routes and capacities play a crucial role in shaping competition, accessibility, and travel options for the public. The government’s commitment to fostering connections with Turkish Airlines and its ongoing management of such negotiations will likely remain subject to scrutiny and debate in the coming months.

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