Europe’s major hub airports should operate around the clock if they are to stand a chance of competing with other global hubs – something Turkish Airlines chief executive Temel Kotil will be pushing for in his second year as president of the Association of European Airlines.

“Hub airports should operate 24 hours a day. In Turkey we have 24-hour operations, and this is crucial,” says Kotil, who has made concerns over infrastructure a key part of his role as AEA president.

While acknowledging that “it will take time” to get this message across to European regulators, and pointing out that he “understands the social concerns” of introducing round-the-clock airport operations at hubs located in congested areas, Kotil believes 24h operations are a must if Europe’s airports want to maintain their position on the world stage.

“Personally, in Turkey [24h airport operations] are not a problem, so I have my own experience of this as chief executive of Turkish Airlines. But, unfortunately, in Europe no hub airport operates 24 hours a day,” says Kotil.

“To be a big player, this is a must. Otherwise hub-and-spoke doesn’t work. [Non-24h operations are] okay for point-to-point travel but in Europe, for network carriers, 24 hours is a must.”



The AEA president does not single out a particular European airport he thinks should operate in this way, however, noting: “I am not going to name names, but all major hubs should go that way.”

Kotil believes the EU could take a leaf out of Turkey’s book when it comes to both airport infrastructure and taxes on aviation. “On infrastructure, Turkey has been spending lots of money. We will have a new 150 million passenger airport in three years, 15 additional airports have been built and taxation on aviation has been reduced, which has been very helpful. [Turkey] is a good example to everybody,” he says.

AEA chief executive Athar Husain Khan is keen to stress the advantages of having an association president from outside the EU.

“Coming from a non-EU country and from an airline that is doing well, [Kotil] brings a fresh look on what’s happening in Europe. He has helped us to open the eyes of politicians in Brussels,” says Husain Khan. “He is well-positioned to say: ‘In Turkey we have a different approach.’”

The Turkish Airlines boss does not mince his words on the subject of Europe’s airport costs – another bugbear of his. “Cost-wise, European airports are not good.

“We are asking that the aviation business is not [treated as] a cash cow,” says Kotil. His main message to European regulators is to invest heavily in infrastructure, and keep the taxman at bay: “My message is to make sure costs are very low, because we want to ­expand and continue what we’re doing. Europe is a big player, so we want to make sure that ­infrastructure and regulations [keep it that way].”

Kotil is clearly enjoying his two-year stint as AEA president and has high praise for the association, especially following its restructuring last year. The reorganisation saw the AEA shed 40% of its full-time equivalent staff and shave costs by ­almost 30%.

“The business has become much leaner,” says Kotil. “It is now doing things in a more lean way.” From Turkish Airlines’ perspective, membership of the AEA is an ongoing source of pride. “We enjoy being part of an excellent association. It is a benefit for us to be part of a big body,” says Kotil.

Despite his gripes about ­infrastructure and airport costs, Kotil describes Europe as being “a very healthy market”, and a “focal point to Asia”. But his message to the new European Commission when it takes office in November is: “We are doing our job as a ­business, and I think the aircraft 100% belong to us in the air. But on the ground they belong to ­everyone.”

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Source: Flight Daily News