Turkish Airlines seals huge Airbus deal

AFP, Wednesday 17 Apr 2013

Turkish airlines ink it's biggest deal ever with Airbus to buy 117 planes

Turkish national flag-carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) signed on Wednesday a gigantic deal for up to 117 planes with European manufacturer Airbus, finalising the largest order in Turkish civil aviation history.

"We are inking today the biggest deal ever clinched by a Turkish airline," THY chairman Hamdi Topcu said during a ceremony with Airbus in Istanbul.

The order centres on Airbus' A320 medium-haul family and includes firm orders for 82 planes and an option for 35 others, to be delivered by 2020.

THY currently has a fleet of 215 airplanes, 107 of them purchased from the European giant and the rest from its US rival Boeing.

With the new order, the THY expects to be operating a 375-plane fleet by 2020, hoping to become "one of the 10 largest airlines in the world and carry 90 million passengers a year," according to Topcu.

"Today we celebrate a great achievement for Airbus and Turkish Airlines," Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier told reporters ahead of the ceremony.

Bregier praised THY's growth, which he said was faster than Airbus.

Starting off as a monopoly, THY was privatised 10 years ago, which Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said "put the company on a rational footing that allowed this extensive growth."

In recent months, the company has also ordered 20 longer-range Airbus A330-300s aircraft, putting the total number of potential purchases as high as 137.

As part of a shopping spree that began in October, the company also placed orders for 95 Boeing planes, including 70 firm orders to be delivered by 2021.

THY's ambitions run parallel to that of the Turkish government, which considers the carrier a "national instrument" that could boost Turkey's image worldwide.

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