Ercüment Filiz: Leading Turkey’s “boutique” airline

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Ercüment Filiz does not have bold plans for Turkey’s Inter Airlines. Instead he wants to keep Inter small and stick to its current niche of operating charter flights from the Mediterranean resort Antalya.

“We still care about passengers,” says Filiz, the carrier’s general manager. “We want to be a small boutique airline. With only three airplanes we can control the quality of our service.”

Inter launched in 2002 with two Boeing 737-800s and last year switched to larger Airbus A321s. The carrier now operates three leased A321s, operated in an all economy-class configuration with 214 to 219 seats, and one Fokker 100. Filiz says it plans to add two A321s in 2008 and two more in 2009 but will soon phase out the Fokker 100.

One of Inter’s A321s is wet-leased to leisure carrier TUI Holland, which Inter has worked with since its launch, and flies mainly between Antalya and Amsterdam. Another A321 is chartered by Istanbul-based Oger Tours, which uses the aircraft to fly from Istanbul to eight German cities and sells mainly to Turkish migrant workers living in Germany.

The third A321 operates between Antalya and 14 Germany cities. Filiz says seats on this aircraft are sold by Inter’s sister company, Dusseldorf-based ITT, and other German tour companies.

The Fokker 100 is used for charter flights domestically and to neighbouring countries. Filiz says Inter plans to drop this business because “you can’t keep two different missions in one airline. It becomes too expensive for you.”

He says the four A321s that will be delivered by the end of 2009 will be used to expand ITT’s tourism business to Belgium, France and Eastern Europe. Filiz says the four aircraft will “finalise growth in our first phase”.

Turkey’s Riviera

Inter, which Filiz says carried 440,000 passengers last year, aims to tap into Antalya’s rapid growth in the tourism sector. Antalya already attracts about 5 million tourists per year, mostly from Germany, France and Scandinavia. “It’s the Riviera of Turkey,” Filiz says. “It’s one of the biggest tourism destinations in the Mediterranean.”

Several carriers serve Antalya but Filiz says most of them are scheduled carriers, including several low-cost operators. Turkey has had an explosion of new airlines in recent years and there are now 17 carriers in the country, but Filiz says none of them compete directly with Inter.

“We have a different niche,” he says. “We’re a small boutique company.”

Inter and ITT are both owned by Omer Turgay Torosluoglu, a Turkish entrepreneur who also owns a five-star hotel in Antalya with over 500 rooms. Filiz says Torosluoglu “loves aviation” and founded Inter to help grow his tourism businesses. Torosluoglu is the carrier’s chairman while Filiz, who formerly worked for Turkish charter carrier Onur Air, is responsible for day-to-day management.

Filiz was interviewed by Airline Business at the 2007 Paris Air Show, which he attended to sign a four-year $200 million maintenance deal with Lufthansa Technik (see picture, left).

 

 

Inter now does its own line and light maintenance, including A- and B-checks. Filiz says Inter had no choice but to set up its own maintenance division after launching in 2002 because there are no third-party companies at its Antalya base. Inter will continue to do light maintenance on A320s and Boeing 737s for its own and third-party aircraft.

Filiz says Lufthansa Technik has been contracted to provide C-checks, landing gear servicing and engine maintenance for its entire A320 fleet. It will also provide light maintenance at all the German airports Inter serves.

“We are an airline. We want to focus on our core business,” Filiz says.

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