Despite the hostility of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Israel, the state-owned Turkish Airlines continues to carry on a booming business on the Istanbul-Tel Aviv route.
Travel statistics trump the anti-Israel rhetoric. More Israelis are flying Turkish Airlines than ever: Some 695,000 flew round trip with the airline in 2014, 4.86% more than in 2013, making it the leading foreign carrier in Israel.
“As countries, there will always be a love-hate relationship between us and Israel. What’s important, however, is that business connects people, and we don’t let the bad people around interfere with our mission: to be always the preferred option for Israeli passengers. We’re very proud of our route, and we want to continue giving good service and a successful product that will make Israelis choose us,” Turkish Airlines Vice President Ziya Taskent told Globes in an interview in company headquarters in Istanbul.
Walla Tours CEO Ariel Atias explains that Israelis’ preference for Turkish Airlines is entirely pragmatic. “Frequency of flights, availability of seats, good connections to a large number of destinations around the world, good service and treatment of passengers, and attractive prices,” he said.
Although fears of travel in Turkey — reflected in an official Israeli travel warning — do deter many Israelis, its attractiveness as a an intermediate stop is undiminished.
As of now, Turkish Airlines offers connecting flights to 108 countries and 219 destinations around the globe at competitive prices. A Globes study found that connecting flights through Istanbul in July-August to destinations such as Toronto, Bangkok, and Tokyo were cheaper than departures with Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, British Airways, and Royal Jordanian Airlines to the same destinations.
For example, a Turkish Airlines ticket to London on Turkish Airlines costs $420 a person, compared with $700-$900 on the other European airlines checked. Flights to Amsterdam and Rome were also significantly cheaper on Turkish Airlines.
In comparison with companies like Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, and British Airways, flights to New York and Los Angeles were also tens of dollars cheaper on Turkish Airways.