Turkish leisure and domestic carrier SunExpress is exploring routes to points outside of its traditional heartland following the delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX jets, according to CEO Max Kownatzki.
The airline has a fleet of 56 aircraft, comprising 47 737-800 NGs and nine 737-8s that were delivered between December and January. CAPA Fleet Database shows a further 33 737-8s are on order.
Speaking at the CAPA Leader Summit in Manchester, Kownatzki explained that the extended range of the 737-8s is enabling the carrier to evaluate new network opportunities, looking both east and west.
“The MAX, compared to the NG in our case, give us about 45 minutes to an hour or more [flying time],” he said. “Obviously, that opens up another array of possible destinations. Being based in Frankfurt and Antalya, India is one example, and so yes, it does open up some interesting opportunities which we’re looking into.”
However, Kownatzki said that the primary focus of SunExpress remains the Turkish domestic market and stimulating leisure and VFR demand to and from the country.
The carrier plans to offer 25 new nonstop routes during the summer 2022 season and an additional 16,250 flights. “Fifteen thousand of those are right along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey so we’re still going to stay close to our bedrock and our home turf,” Kownatzki said.
He added that SunExpress, a joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa, also hopes to balance the seasonality of demand by leasing out up to 10 aircraft to carriers in North America during winter. Permission from US and Canadian authorities to operate dry- and wet-lease services has already been granted.
Kownatzki said: “We have a high summer peak. We make our money in the months of July to September, sometimes early October, and so we can’t have too much capacity in the wintertime. We’re now looking at shedding some of that capacity in the winter.”