Marking its 30th anniversary, SunExpress, a joint venture of flag carrier Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa, is set to launch a landmark hangar facility in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.
"We will invest a substantial million euro amount in a new aircraft hangar facility in Antalya," SunExpress CEO Jens Bischof told Anadolu Agency.
Bischof said the new investment will show the carrier's "full and unconditional trust in the region" along with supporting the local economy.
Currently, airlines served by Antalya Airport go to maintenance, repair and overhaul providers in Istanbul or even other countries, but the new facility would create many more options and ease air transport in the region.
The maintenance facility is expected to become operational as of 2021-2022, depending on the authorization process, he said.
"We're currently in the planning and coordination phase with the authorities, DHMİ, the state airports authority, and also with Antalya Airport," Bischof said.
Reiterating his view that 2019 will be a record year for Turkish tourism, Bischof said the country is "a great value" for tourists. "We again have very strong bookings," he said. "Now even the last-minute bookings are coming up to the extent where we believe it's a healthy point."
He added that recent challenges around the Turkish lira have also helped boost tourist numbers.
The number of foreign arrivals in Turkey surged 11.3 percent year-on-year to 12.8 million in the first five months of the year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
"Of course the summer isn't over yet, but we're on a very good path," said Bischof.
He said the company will offer more than 9 million seats this summer — mostly international flights going to Turkey's tourist draws such as the coastal gems of Antalya, İzmir, Dalaman and Bodrum.
"In 2019 we're operating SunExpress' biggest fleet ever, so we're flying a total of 84 aircraft," up nearly 22 percent from last year, he added.
Bischof underlined that foreign visitors also flock to Antalya as a sports destination.
"We're also bringing soccer teams from Germany's Bundesliga and also other leagues to soccer camps, training camps here to the southern shores of Turkey," he said.
NEW ISTANBUL AIRPORT
Asked about foreign investments in the Turkish aviation sector, Bischof said SunExpress is "a great example" of combining German and Turkish values.
He underlined that Turkey has a big advantage in terms of its cost position.
"In the airline sector, if you compare yourself internationally, we can say that our cost position as an airline is very attractive and ensures our success. So Turkey is always attractive," he noted.
Founded in 1989, SunExpress flies to more than 90 destinations in over 30 countries. The airline, based in the coastal resort of Antalya, was named the world's fifth-Best Leisure Airline for two years in a row by Skytrax.
Touching on the new Istanbul Airport, which had its grand opening last fall, Bischof said it was very wise to bring this airport to life to support the country's economic development.
"It is a fantastic facility - it is modern, it is contemporary," he said.
He praised it as a "very attractive facility" not only "by size but also by the processes, by the operations, by the design."
Bischof also said the passengers who make international connections through the new airport will have a huge impact on Turkey's well-being.
Istanbul Airport, the "world's new hub," officially opened last fall and took over air traffic from the former main Atatürk Airport on April 6.
At a full annual capacity of 200 million passengers - with the completion of all four phases with six runways by 2028 - Istanbul Airport is set to become a global aviation hub, hosting more than 100 airlines and flights to over 300 destinations around the world.
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