A Turkish Airlines gesture

I’ve been a loyal Turkish Airlines’ customer since 1959. I flew to Ankara frequently in those days. Turkish Airlines at the time operated out of a single modest terminal serving both domestic and international flights at Istanbul’s Yeşilköy airport and a small terminal squeezed onto the Etimesgut military airbase at Ankara.

In those years no film was ever shown without first being approved by the censorship board in Ankara. And every film I made inevitably caused a problem with some brief line or trivial scene, and I would shuttle back and forth to Ankara four or five times a month.

Again in those years there were no wide highways or comfortable, luxury buses. Traveling to Ankara by train or bus was a twelve-hour proposition. And it was usually even longer since the road was frequently closed. In our strategy for marketing Turkish films, we had divided the country into five zones - Marmara, Aegean, Southern Anatolia, Central Anatolia and Black Sea - and had offices in each. Consequently I also started flying Turkish Airlines to Izmir, Adana and Samsun.

Then, with the migration of Turkish workers to Germany beginning in the 1960s, we rented movie theaters in various German cities for three or four matinees on the weekend so the homesick guestworkers and their families could watch films from the old country. To manage this operation, I set up an office there with an old filmmaker friend of mine who had settled in Munich. İrfan Ünal, Ertem Eğilmez and I also opened an office in Athens for our Anatolian Greek citizens who had emigrated to Greece. And so I started making weekly flights to Germany and Greece as well, again with Turkish Airlines.

There was a Turkish film boom in Greece in the 1960’s. It all began when the Greek fans became enamored of Hülya Koçyiğit and took a big interest in her films, but it spread later to other actors and films as well.

I will never forget the time we went to Athens for the premiere of the film ‘Yumurcak’ starring Filiz Akın, İlker İnanoğlu and Necdet Tosun. For some reason I can’t recall now we arrived late at the airport. The actors were supposed to attend the premiere that evening and the last plane to Athens had already taxied out to the runway. It was an extremely harrowing moment for us, but Turkish Airlines’ ground crew came to our rescue. After talking with the captain of the plane, they put us on a small airport bus and ferried us out to the runway. It was a tiny plane; the door opened, the staircase came down and we boarded. Thanks to them we made it to the premiere that evening. I’m not sure in which other countries of the world such a gesture would be possible...

Now several private, and very economical, airlines have started operating in Turkey on the domestic routes. And a number of foreign airlines make flights abroad. But would you believe it? I never fly anything but Turkish Airlines!

For never on any other airline have I found such smiling, simpatico and hard-working hostesses, such confidence-inspiring pilots, or such warmth and sympathy on the part of the ground personnel, who always strive to solve every problem with unfailing good will.