When I booked a Turkish Airlines flights from Malta to New York via Istanbul a few years ago, quite a few people responded with confused looks on their faces. What, Istanbul? In Turkey? But New York’s on the other side of the world…
Fast-forward a few years and Turkish Airlines has become one of the most popular numbers for Maltese travellers, particularly those visiting non-European countries.
The numbers speak for themselves. Turkish Airlines launched in Malta in 2013 with three weekly flights, carrying 19,292 passengers to and from Luqa and Istanbul. The demand was so great that it added two more flights the following year, a further five in 2015, and a further four in 2016, a move that saw passenger numbers practically septuple to 132,521 passengers that year and shoot up again to 147,881 in 2017.
Istanbul ranked 8th most popular airport for passengers flying to and from Malta
Meanwhile, Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport has become one of the most popular airports for passengers flying in and out of the Malta International Airport, with the most recent statistics from July showing it has actually overtaken the popular airport hubs of Paris Orly and Amsterdam Schiphol.
In an industry as notoriously competitive as the airline business, these growth figures are nothing short of staggering.
So why the surge in popularity?
I would hazard a guess that this is because Turkish Airlines actually goes out of its way to keep its travellers happy without making them break the bank before they have even landed at their destination.
Economy class comes along with comfortable seating, pretty tasty meals by airline standards and inflight entertainment screens for long-haul flights. Of course, everything goes up a couple of notches if you upgrade to business class; we’re taking blankets and cushions, fresh lemonade, large headphones and food that wouldn’t look out of place at a high-end restaurant.
Very decent for an economy meal. Photo: Turkish Airlines
A business class meal. Spot the tiny salt and pepper shakers. Photo: Turkish Airlines
While Turkey is a beautiful country in its own right, there is no doubt that Turkish Airlines is selling itself as an airline which can take you from anywhere to Istanbul and on to anywhere, hence its catchy ‘Widen Your World’ slogan. From Argentina to the Philippines, the airline serves 119 countries – some 60% of the entire planet and more than any other airline.
It’s not just the immense variety of travel destinations which makes Turkish Airlines a hit though, but the actual stopover itself. If your shortest possible transit time exceeds 10 hours (8 hours for business), then Turkish Airlines will actually transport you to a nearby five or four star hotel free of charge. Where’s the catch? There is none, just a night of luxury courtesy of the airline.
Feast your eyes on the Istanbul business lounge! Photo: Turkish Airlines
Yes, this photo was actually taken inside an airport
If you’re flying business class, you will seriously want to arrive at Istanbul’s airport a few hours early just to enjoy the pleasures of its jumbo sized business lounge. We’re talking buffet meals from all over the world, a mini-cinema complete with a popcorn stand, a golf simulator, Playstation and Scalextric (remember those?) games and even a billiards table and a library.
And things are about to get a whole lot better too. At the end of October, the Atatürk airport will be phased out and replaced with the Istanbul New Airport, set to be the largest airport in the world with a whopping estimated annual passenger carrying capacity of 200 million people.
Meet your New Istanbul Airport guide! Photo: Daily Sabah
The airport has an incredibly futuristic design, with mini robots giving directions to passengers, a digital bag-drop system designed to speed up the luggage drop off process, and a ‘Magic Mirror’ application at shops that will allow customers to see how clothes, make-up and accessories will look on them without even having to try them on.
And if this makes you feel like booking a flight, then Turkish Airlines has just launched some special offers for return flights from Malta to nine cities, from Istanbul and Moscow to Tel Aviv and Kathmandu. The offer is for flights until 31st March, excluding the Christmas period, and is open until the 26th September, which gives you a few weeks to plan your next trip!