A new, improved relationship with airport operator TAV has helped Turkish Airlines more than double traffic at Istanbul’s Atatürk Interntional Airport since 2007.
Five years ago, the airline handled just 12 million passengers at Atatürk, but soaring growth ever since saw the figure exceed 25.6 million in 2011, and TAV Airports president and CEO, Dr Mustafa Seni Sener, believes that the “new relationship” has proved instrumental to its growth.
Sener, speaking at ACI Europe’s Annual General Annual Assembly, Congress & Exhibition in Madrid, said that he believed that improved communication, “constructive negotiations” and collaboration between TAV and Turkish had made the difference.
He argued that the two shared the common goals of wishing to make aviation “safer, more secure, user-friendly, hassle free, operationally efficient and environmentally responsible”, and typically had only ever clashed over airport charges, despite them accounting for just 4% of airline costs.
“Airports and airlines complement each other, but they also compete, at times, because when an airport has to expand its infrastructure to meet demand and increase revenues it usually results in an increase in costs to airlines,” said Sener.
“We wanted to change things at Atatürk and enter into a new relationship with Turkish Airlines based on a new and common agenda, where we jointly focused on making the airport a better home for Turkish Airlines by accommodating its robust traffic development with seamless airport operations.”
He said that, perhaps, the first step in their new relationship was to accept the fact that passengers were their “common customers” and not the ‘airlines’ or ‘the airports’.
“They used to say that the passengers were their customers, and we used to say that as soon as they entered the terminal building they were our customers, and this kind of thinking didn’t help,” admitted Sener.
“As partners we focused on making our customers happy, and a happy customer automatically makes the airlines and us happy. Our initiatives focused on co-operation in the areas of CDM [collaborative decision making], improved customer service, infrastructure investments, cost efficiencies, business partnerships and effective security.
“To me CDM means connectivity, and connectivity means productivity, and to achieve this you have to connect and share information and knowledge with all the players at the airport.”
And it appears as if TAV’s strategy is beginning to reap rewards in terms of customer satisfaction levels and increased passenger spend at Atatürk's shops and restaurants.
Sener noted: "Moving security checkpoints from the gates to a new central location has led to shorter queues at security, reduced passenger stress levels and allowed more time for airport shopping, eating and entertainment.
"A recent survey discovered that ‘happy passengers’ at Atatürk spend an average of €10.8 more than unhappy travellers."