LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Turkish budget airline Pegasus is looking to boost its flights between Europe and Turkey following a recovery in demand this year as the security situation improved, its chief commercial officer said.
After a torrid 2016 which saw Pegasus make a loss after a series of attacks in the country, tourists are returning to Turkey. Pegasus’s passenger numbers increased 14.1 percent between January and July from a year earlier and the carrier returned to profit in the second quarter.
“For European destinations, with our fleet increasing and due to the market demand, we will be looking at increasing flight frequencies to Italy, to Spain, to Germany, to the UK,” Pegasus CCO Guliz Ozturk told Reuters at an industry conference in London on Thursday.
“If the market demand is there, because of the perception of an improvement in the situation in Turkey, we will utilise that demand.”
Pegasus expects delivery of more Airbus a320 neo aircraft between December 2017 and May 2018 as part of a bigger 2012 order.
Provided the security situation in Turkey remains stable, Ozturk said business this year could return to levels seen in 2015.
“There is a significant improvement compared to last year’s figures in European tourist traffic to Turkey,” Ozturk said.
“Those security concerns are not there anymore, and if it stays as it is, we will also capture the pre-crisis figures (of 2015).”
Foreign nationals were among those killed last year in separate attacks in Istanbul’s historic centre, its Ataturk airport and near a football stadium, while an attempted coup in the country also deterred visitors to Turkey.
British tour operator Thomas Cook said in March that tourists were returning to Turkey, though many European tour operators had already switched capacity towards Spain and the Western Mediterranean for this summer.
Ozturk said that Pegasus was not looking to capitalise on the disruption, but could nevertheless benefit if others had switched flights away from Turkey.
“The business we’re doing is a bit different,” she said, adding that Pegasus only had a limited number of direct flights to resorts.
“But if people would like to travel, they find a way to travel, and if those direct flights are not there, they will fly with connecting flights and Pegasus will be there to serve.” (Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Susan Fenton)