Exclusive Interview: Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines CEO

Being one of the fastest growing airlines in the world is not enough for Temel Kotil. His goal is simply, to be the best.


The Turkish capital city, located strategically in the centre of Europe and Asia, has been emerging as a business and leisure hub in recent times.

Over 838,2000 tourists visited Istanbul in the first three months of the year, according to the Istanbul Cultural and Tourism Directorate, representing a 23.8 per cent increase in numbers compared to the same period last year.

The city’s picturesque attractions drew 9.5 million visitors in 2012, 16 per cent higher than 2011, and helped it rank as the third most visited city in Europe after London and Paris, and the fifth most visited city in the world last year.

This year, authorities hope that visitor numbers will exceed 10 million.

To cater to the rising number of visitors, Turkey has announced plans to construct a new $9.3 billion airport near the Black Sea coast in central Istanbul, which will have the capacity to handle 150 million passengers when completed.

“The city is an intercontinental bridge and a well-known transfer point. The construction of a new airport will significantly benefit the aviation sector and is in line with our strategy to develop Turkish Airlines as the best in the world by 2023,” tells Kotil.

But it’s not just Istanbul’s location that is geographically ideal; Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are all aiming to create transit hubs for globetrotters in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha respectively.


With each of these cities vying for the same crowd, is a battle of the skies looming?

Kotil predictably answers in the negative. “As Turkish Airlines, we love our passengers, but we also love the competition. We believe that our major competitors are helping us succeed, as they motivate us.

“Besides, we also have commercial cooperation agreements with some of the major airlines that are perceived as competition. So, no, there is no brutal competition between GCC airlines and us.

“Also, I believe that Dubai, Doha and Istanbul will be able to co-exist as three major international hubs for transiting passengers. Each of the cities has its own features and importance in the region – their prominence depends on trade and tourism supported by the airline companies in the Middle East.

“Any increase in the capacity supply will create its own demand for these hub cities in the region. Therefore neither cannabilisation nor a clash is expected; these cities are not competitors and can work together to benefit the entire region,” he firmly states.

For the zealous Kotil, succeeding entails three key elements: positive thinking, zero laziness and zero bad intentions.

“As the CEO of Turkish Airlines, I love my business, I love my team and I love my passengers. We consider that our passengers, even the babies on board, are our bosses.

“We have to do our best to satisfy all their needs and make them forget that they are flying in the air.”