Growing regional operator Pegasus Airlines has made Turkey's largest single aircraft order with a deal for at least 75 Airbus medium-haul planes. The move illustrates the stunning rate of growth the Turkish air industry is enjoying, especially in comparison with the dire state of the sector in Europe.
The Istanbul-based budget carrier placed a firm order for 58 fuel-saving A320neo aircraft and 17 A321neo jets. Pegasus currently operates aircraft built by Boeing, but switched allegiance after what industry sources described as a tough fight between the arch rivals for the contract.
The new aircraft have a combined list price of $7.5bn. The deal also includes options for a further 25 aircraft. If all options are exercised, the deal's value for 100 planes could peak at $9.9bn, based on official Airbus prices, reports Reuters. According to other sources, the list price of the full deal could add up to over $12bn.
"When our first Pegasus flight took off we broke new ground by placing the biggest order in the history of Turkish private civil aviation at the time," Pegasus Airlines Executive Board Director Ali Sabanci said at a signing ceremony for the new deal, which was also attended by Transport Minister Binali Yildirim, reports Hurriyet Daily News. "As we look ahead to the next decade, we know that, apart from human resources, an airline's most important asset is its fleet. Therefore, once again, we have said to ourselves, 'we don't yet have enough.'"
Founded in 1990, Pegasus has grown its fleet from just two aircraft to more than 40 over the past two decades and serves 52 destinations in 24 countries. It claims to be planning an IPO in 2013.
The company's current aggressive expansion highlights the rapid growth in Turkish aviation, and follows recent orders from flag carrier Turkish Airlines for long-range aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.
Turkish carriers are adding routes - especially around the region - and raising capacity on domestic flights in a bid to serve expanding demand. The number of passengers carried in the Turkish air grew by 10% year on year to 121.8m in the first 11 months of 2012, reports Bloomberg. That growth has seen them reporting higher earnings even as airlines elsewhere are struggling through the global slump.
That has seen Turkish Airlines included in a select band of potential saviours that Europe's struggling flag carriers are courting for investment. Alongside operators from the Middle and Far East, the company is hunting for a European hub to form part of its global network. It pulled out of advanced talks to buy Polish LOT Airlines earlier this year due to EU regulations designed to prevent controlling stakes in airlines heading outside the bloc.
However, many European carriers will struggle to survive without the impetus of emerging market growth to help out. "When I first came to office, 100 planes made up 67% of the total commercial fleet in Turkey," Yildirim said at the ceremony. "Today, one of our companies sets a target for 2023 and signs a $12bn deal. We are also set to build the world's biggest airport [a third Istanbul airport] and there will be no problems when it becomes operational in three to four years. This shows how the political will has changed the country," the official said, summing up his "pride" in the sector's development.
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