ISTANBUL — SunExpress, a joint venture between Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), said on Tuesday that summer bookings to Turkey spiked as of this month after a brief drop following February's devastating earthquakes.
The airline expects to carry more than 12 million passengers this year, chief executive Max Kownatzki told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference in Istanbul.
Within days after the massive earthquakes that killed more than 48,000 people and left millions homeless in Turkey, bookings fell by 50 percent, Kownatzki said.
"Within the first week right after the earthquake we have seen significant demand drops, roughly 50-52 percent in international demand. But in week two, we had an uptick in demand … We saw the hit for roughly 10 days and after those 10 days demand has absolutely recovered," Kownatzki said.
"According to beginning of March numbers, we had 60 percent higher advanced bookings than last year."
Antalya-based SunExpress carried 10.7 million passengers mainly between Turkey and European countries last year with an 85 percent load factor, exceeding the pre-pandemic levels, according to information provided at the news conference.
Turkey, facing high inflation and a chronic current account deficit, expects to generate $56 billion in tourism revenues this year.
Kownatzki said Sunexpress expected to achieve 1.63 billion euros ($1.75 billion) in revenue and 80.1 million euros earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) this year. That compares with revenue of 1.49 billion euros and EBIT of 85 million euros last year.
"We have a lot of volatility on inflation, fuel and FX … That's why we are conservative in that assumption," he said, adding that the company was implementing successful hedging strategies for fuel and foreign exchange.
Sunexpress will increase its seat capacity by 13 percent and add 26 routes this year, he said, adding that the company will operate with a fleet of 66 aircraft this season.
($1 = 0.9327 euros)