Turkish Airlines is looking to bring in longer-range aircraft capable of supporting its plans to launch flights linking Istanbul to Sydney in the second half of this year.

The Star Alliance carrier has long had the Australian city in its sights, and had previously looked at adding an onward connection to Sydney from Jakarta when it opened services to the Indonesian city in 2010.

Turkish has been looking at adding Australian flights for a couple of years. But the airline's chairman Ilker Ayci notes: "We are looking for extra-range aircraft that can serve between Istanbul and Sydney."

Sources suggest that the airline is considering Boeing 777-200LRs to operate the route direct. Alternatively, it could look at operating it as a connection from existing Asian points such as Jakarta or Bangkok. The airline already codeshares on services to Australia through Singapore via a partnership with Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines.

Turkish is this year serving new long-range destinations including Atlanta, Bogota, Hanoi, Havana, Mexico City and Phuket.

The airline is to take its 300th aircraft in the next week. Ayci says Turkish will receive 43 new aircraft this year:

"We will lease back five aircraft," adds Ayci. "With new deliveries, THY's fleet will be 340 aircraft at [the] end of 2016. For example, in the next month three new Boeing 777-300ERs will be delivered. Our long-range aircraft fleet will reach 83. THY carried 62 million passengers in 2015. Our aim is to increase it to 72 million [by the] end of 2016."

A stock-exchange filing shows that Turkish's passenger numbers increased 11.8% last year. The respective increases in the numbers of passengers carried domestically and internationally were 15.7% and 9%.

The number of international business/comfort-class passengers increased 6.5%, while international-to-international transfer passenger numbers rose 18.1%. Load factor decreased by 1.4 percentage points to 77.9%.

Available seat-kilometres, with a 13.6% increase, reached 153 billion. Domestic and international ASKs were boosted 13.1% and 13.7%, respectively.

Revenue passenger-kilometres climbed 11.7% to 119 billion. The increases in domestic and international RPKs were 15.2% and 11.1%, respectively.

The number of passenger-aircraft landings was up 9.6% at around 453,000. Cargo/mail carried increased 8.7% to 720,440t.

At year-end, the number of destinations served was 284, up from 261 in December 2014. Domestic destinations rose from 43 to 49 and international destinations from 218 to 235.

The number of aircraft in the fleet meanwhile rose from 261 to 291, as the number of widebodies total increased from 55 to 73, the number of narrowbodies from 197 to 216 and the number of cargo aircraft from nine to 10.

Source: Cirium Dashboard