Filipinos now have another direct connection to Europe. Less than one month after a new air services agreement was established between Turkey and the Philippines, Turkish Airlines has revealed that it will begin non-stop flights between Istanbul Ataturk and Manila three times weekly beginning on March 30, 2015.
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Earlier this year, Turkish Airlines expressed a strong interest in launching non-stop service to Manila. The Government of Turkey has long expressed an interest in strengthening bilateral ties between the two nations through the development of tourism, trade, and investment.
According to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the new air agreement was just a first step in developing ties to overcome the geographical distance between the two countries. "Turkish Airlines wants to fly every day to Manila," said Davutoğlu. But for now, the recently established air agreement restricts the European carrier to just three weekly flights.
Turkish Airlines has been trying to serve Manila since 2011, but was unable to without revisions to the previous air services agreement. The majority of opposition to a new agreement came from local carriers that have been trying to block the Turkish flag carrier from offering daily service due to the competitive threat it poses. It currently remains unclear if Turkish Airlines plans to codeshare with Philippine Airlines.
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The new flights will be operated by a Turkish Airlines Airbus A340-300 aircraft configured with 34 seats in Business Class and 236 seats in Economy. The flights will depart every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.
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The Turkish Airlines Business Class seat features a 60 to 77 inch seat pitch with a width of 21 inches. The angled-flat seats recline up to 159 degrees.
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The Turkish Airlines Economy Class seat features a 33 to 34 inch seat pitch with a width of 17 to 18 inches. They recline up to six inches in a two-four-two abreast configuration aboard the A340.
All seats on board the aircraft feature Audio and Video on Demand with personal television screens that can play more than 250 albums, 30 movies, 40 short films, and games. However, power ports are only available in Business Class.
Flight TK084 will depart Istanbul Ataturk at 1:00am and arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila at 6:00pm. The return flight, TK085, departs Manila at 8:50pm, and arrives back in Istanbul at 5:05am the following day. It remains unclear which terminal Turkish Airlines will use at the airport in Manila.
Turkish Airlines recently opened a ticketing office in Manila in an effort to attract Turkish businessmen and Filipino tourists. There are presently 35,000 passengers travelling annually between the Philippines and Turkey. However, Turkish Airlines plans to take a larger share of the overseas Filipino worker market, hoping to capture much of the European bound traffic. This will put the Turkish carrier in direct competition with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Gulf carriers, and Philippine Airlines, which launched flights to London last year.
It should come as no surprise that local carriers in the Philippines have been objecting to the entry of Turkish Airlines into the local market. The Turkish flag carrier is no ordinary competitor having recently been ranked the Best Airline in Europe at the 2014 World Airline Awards and the 5th Best Airline in the World. It is presently ranked as a Four-Star Airline by Skytrax.
In addition to providing top-notch quality and service, the new Manila to Istanbul route will provide European bound passengers access to the Star Alliance network and connections to more than 200 destinations worldwide including all major cities in Europe through Turkish Airlines' Istanbul hub. The entry of Turkish Airlines adds yet another competitive threat for Philippine Airlines that has been trying to re-establish its footprint in Europe.