Julian Moxon/ISTANBUL

Turkish Airlines (THY) hopes to reach a decision on membership of a global alliance by the end of the year as the Government moves towards selling a majority stake in the national carrier. THY is not, however, seeking a single large airline investor.

Full privatisation is unlikely to happen by year end, as once planned, says executive vice-president Sertac Haybat, due to financial reversals.

Profits were wiped out last year by the Kosovo crisis and the massive earthquake which hit northern Turkey. "We expect to return to profit this year," he adds.

The government is likely to sell 20-25% of the airline through an initial public offering, but has yet to decide whether to follow up with a further sale to a single large investor. Employees will also be offered shares.

Losses in 1999 stood at L67.5 trillion ($109 million), compared with a profit of L5.4 trillion in 1998. Revenues last year stood at L620 trillion - a 64% increase on 1998.This was more than offset by an 85% increase in costs. Yields were low due to the carrier's reliance on tourism, which accounts for 95% of traffic.

The new international terminal at Istanbul will become THY's transit hub focusing on attracting more business traffic.

THY says that, though a "dormant" member of the Swissair-led Qualiflyer group, its link to the all-European alliance will not hamper global alliance aims. All existing groups have already expressed an interest, Haybat says.

On the fleet front, he says THY will probably take up options on new Boeing 737s. Replacement of its 13 Airbus A310s is also "on the agenda. We're looking at the yet-to-be-launched A330-100, but we must see a gain in costs". THY is now flying 737-800s on some A310 routes.

Source: Flight International