Turkish Air Lines Is Turkey’s Strength

We conducted a small interview with Mr. Hamdi Topçu, Turkish Airlines’ Board Chairman, on the venerable institution he is at the helm of.

How would you like civil  aviation historians to write about Turkish Airlines’ highly successful past decade?
We are in love with this country. The country also has a government that is in love with it. If you believe and if you have decided to achieve something, you are sure to succeed. So long as you love your job, carry it out lovingly, and carry it out with faith, no issue or barrier can stand before you. And when I look back at this decade in the future, I will perceive it as a dream. Sometimes, you can’t fully perceive the things you are doing when you are doing them. One must turn and look back on them. Upon seeing the targets our company will have reached in the future or the international esteem it will gain, I will say, “It was a fantastic decade; the wind was truly at our backs always; and we believed.” “Success was our only option,” I will say.

What did you trust in when  setting out?
We trusted in Turkey’s future, we trusted in stability in Turkey, and we trusted those who rule this country. We are a team, of course, and all of us are parts of the team. After all, we came to these places thanks to this team spirit. All of us did what we were able to do; there is nothing I can look back at anymore and say, “I wish I had done this differently.”

What does Turkish Airlines signify for Turkey?
Turkish Airlines signifies  Turkey’s power.

And for you, personally?
Turkish Airlines now signifies great value to me. At age eighty, ours is really a venerable sycamore of an institution. I get excited when Turkish Airlines’ name is mentioned. A company to which I gave my entire strength and all my values in the most important decade of my life signifies many things to me.

Could we ask for your thoughts on Turkish Airlines' ventures that are growing with Turkish  Airlines itself?
When we took over, with total revenues of $1.4 billion, Turkish Airlines was an airline that was striving to support itself. In the name of bringing our expenses under control, offering services to third parties, and contributing value to Turkey, we set the goal of making a worthy contender of our company. At the same time, we carrıid out activities to grow the civil aviation industry in several fields. As a result, Turkish Airlines reached the position it occupies today, and it is continuing on its journey toward ever-greater targets. 

We Will Be the World’s Most Active Airline
We had a chat about the past and the future with Temel Kotil, PhD, President and CEO of Turkish Airlines

In parallel to the development of aviation in Turkey, how did the development of Turkish Airlines play out?
People want to get from one place to the other quickly. This nurtured interest in flight throughout history. After being founded in 1933, Turkish Airlines did not receive the needed attention and did not take the necessary steps toward institutionalization for a long time. With the addition of the DC-3 Dakotas to the fleet after World War II, the fleet grew from a size of five aircraft to thirty. The years that followed saw some partial developments. The late Turgut Özal [former president and prime minister of Turkey], who rendered significant services to Turkey admirably in several areas, gave particular importance to aviation and valued Turkish Airlines highly.

The second important period was the restructuring process that began in 2003 with the then-Minister of Transportation, Mr. Binali Yıldırım, and Abdurrahman Gündoğdu, then-president of Turkish Airlines. In this period, I served as vice president for two years. This transformation was not easy; it faced resistance. This was a natural process—even if you try to straighten a crooked tree, the tree will tend to remain crooked, showing resistance against you. These efforts continued during my presidency in 2005.

Turkish Airlines has shown great progress over the past decade. What is your assessment of this?
Every company has a natural market and opportunities. Sometimes, companies are unable to reach their natural sizes and seize their opportunities. Turkish Airlines succeeded. Turkey’s geographical position, the development of the Turkish economy, the effect of Turkish politics on the global stage, the development of travel, the transformation of roles in the market, the increased importance of Africa in the Middle East as Europe’s importance diminishes, and Turkey’s position at the center of this development lay out opportunities before us. To utilize these opportunities, we went back to our roots. As Turkish people, we are individuals who love people. Everything starts with love, after all. We welcome and serve all our passengers as if they were guests in our homes. Love alone is not enough, of course—it needs to be supported by technical means and institutionalization. We value our employees highly and place importance on their development. Mid-level executives in our company are very young people; this establishes a foundation for the formation of new ideas. We, for our part, coach them. Our employees are among our most valuable geographical. Were it not for them, our company would not be where it is today.

What are your aims for the future?
By now, we have completed our medium- and long-term strategic plans and moved on to implementation plans. We determined where we will be in 2020 and we have already placed the order for the aircraft needed along the way. With Istanbul’s advantage of being a natural junction, we will connect the world, like a bridge, in the period ahead. Perhaps we will not be the world’s largest airline— that is not important— but we will be the world’s most active airline. We have peerless advantages and faith in this matter.