How Turkish Airlines Became the Self-Proclaimed “King of the Comeback” – A Conversation with Chairman Ilker Ayci


Turkish Airlines has been named “Europe’s Best Airline” for the past six years, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had their challenges. A terrorist attack on one of their airports in 2016 led to 45 deaths and more than 230 injuries. At GBTA Convention 2017, Chairman of Turkish Airlines, Ilker Ayci, spoke with GBTA COO Mike McCormick about the tragedy and how the company maintained their composure in order to secure the airport.

Ayci talked about his philosophy behind handling difficult situations in the public eye, especially when those situations result in loss of life. He emphasized maintaining a strong outlook and trusting the contingency plans the company had in place. When asked what led them to reopen the airport just hours after the attacks, Ayci replied, “We all understood what terrorists asked from us: to stop us, to slow down us, to change our attitude, and to scare us, to stop our activity… [Terrorists] can’t change our lifestyle”.

Turkish Airlines chose to continue providing services to its travelers once the problem was isolated, utilizing fast-track lanes to aid in quick flight boarding. He attributed the quick resolution to their close cooperation with relevant parties and authorities in addition to the training the employees had received prior to the attacks.

It was here that Ayci described Turkish Airlines as the “king of the comeback”, as he praised his employees’ response to the attack and steps taken to reassure customers in the aftermath. He emphasized that their hospitality combined with professionalism is what sets them apart from competitors.

Ayci also commented on the recent electronics ban imposed by the U.S., saying that although he understands the national security and safety concerns, he believes the decision was made very rapidly. When asked how his company responded to the ban, he gave examples of ways the airline improved the flight atmosphere by offering laptops and free Wi-Fi to passengers while their electronics were stored away. He reported that Turkish Airlines successfully transported over 81,000 devices in 103 days.

Now, as they look to the future and the launch of their newest Istanbul airport, Ayci is more optimistic than ever. “Let’s touch each other’s hearts,” he mused as he explained the philosophy behind the soon-to-be unveiled, user-friendly airport.

In closing, Ayci stated that if he could sum up Turkish Airlines with one statement it would be this: “Fly good, feel good and widen your world with us”.

Want more than just a recap of this exciting Center Stage panel? Watch the full one-on-one interview on our YouTube channel here.

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