Boasting an unparalleled flight network stretching across 127 countries with a fleet of 361 aircraft, now Turkey’s national flag carrier Turkish Airlines is celebrating its 87th anniversary in the skies.

According to a statement from Turkish Airlines on Wednesday, back in 1933 the airlines carried out its first flights with a fleet of five aircraft with a capacity of 23 seats.

Starting its operations under the name State Airlines Administration at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport (then named Yesilkoy Airport), Turkish Airlines laid the foundations for its present-day success with new aircraft added to its fleet in the early 1940s.

As its passenger capacity and goals grew over time, in 1947 the national flag carrier operated its first international flight on a route going from the capital Ankara to Istanbul to Athens, Greece, a flight taking took two hours and 40 minutes.

Four years after its first Athens flight, Turkish Airlines expanded its international destinations in 1951 by adding Lefkosa – current capital of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – as well as Beirut, Lebanon and Cairo, Egypt.

Europe and worldwide

With the arrival of the 1960s, the airline made waves in Europe with its experience gained from the Turkish market and its successful strategy for international operations.

Flying to three continents on its 50th anniversary in 1983 with its fleet of 30 aircraft and capacity of over 4,000 seats, Turkish Airlines concluded that hallmark year by carrying 2.5 million passengers and 30,000 tons of cargo.

To promote a pleasant flight for its passengers, in 1983 the first issue of in-flight THY Magazine appeared – now known as Skylife, read by millions of Turkish Airlines’ passengers.

In contrast to the stagnation and regression seen in the aviation industry at the beginning of 2000s, Turkish Airlines entered a significant period of growth with its new investments and routes along with expansion of its fleet.

During this period when passenger operations continued with full speed, the flag carrier expanded its horizons by becoming a brand that provides services to other airlines such as aircraft maintenance and repair, cargo and ground services, manufacturing airplane seats and galleys, and offering flight and aviation schools.

Still connecting people

“Today we are among the world’s best and most well-established airlines and have the capacity to connect hundreds of thousands of our guests with their loved ones every day,” said Ilker Ayci, Turkish Airlines’ chairman.

Pointing to the current situation due to coronavirus, Ayci said:

“We are not happy to be celebrating our 87th anniversary on the ground but we will continue our proud journey and overcome this difficult period that is felt around the globe and especially by the aviation industry.”

Ayci underlined that the company overcame difficult times to raise Turkey’s flag ever-higher each time.

“This turmoil will give us strength and teach us new things for us to be in an even better position in the global aviation industry during our 90th and 100th anniversaries,” he added.

Flying to 322 destinations worldwide, in 2019 Turkish Airlines carried over 74 million passengers.

As COVID-19 travel restrictions went into effect all over the world, commercial flights nearly ground to a halt in Turkey, but the airline is reportedly eyeing resuming flights this summer.

The airline statement told how it flew special evacuation flights to bring home thousands of citizens – Turkish and other nationalities – stranded in other countries due to work, education, and holiday.

Turkish Cargo, a division of Turkey’s national flag carrier, also continues its operations, helping maintain international food and medical supply chains while carrying aid provided by the Turkish Presidency to recipient countries.

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