Swiss International Airlines and EVA Air of Taiwan, both influential members of the Star Alliance, have announced plans to cancel their Istanbul routes due to an over 40% drop in demand for people flying to the city. This move is especially damning given Istanbul’s position as a major, if not one of the biggest, through passenger volume, Star hubs in the world through Turkish Airlines and Geneva as one of the highest yielding Star hubs throughout the network.
Extenuating circumstances such as the failed coup in July and multiple terror attacks throughout the country (indeed even at Istanbul Ataturk Airport) obviously plays a big role in the tanking of demand to the country but the outright cancellation of the route – especially by Swiss – comes as somewhat of a surprise.
Swiss operates double daily A320 flights to Istanbul, a daily A319 flight to Ankara and a seasonal route to Izmir, all of which will be suspended when the IATA winter schedule comes into effect on October 27. They will instead code share with Star partner Turkish Airlines on all of their Switzerland flights and affected passengers will reiceve all the benefits they would have flying on LX metal.
Swiss has a long history of flights into Turkey and at certain points operated widebodies into the country so there must certainly be something else afoot here apart from a drop in demand (a problem all airlines into IST are facing at the moment) because they the airline has also publicly stated that they don’t intend to review the situation until summer 2017. Given Turkey’s (Izmir especially) popularity as a ‘sun’ destination during the European winter this comes as a surprise but I suppose Swiss is covered by TK’s multiple daily frequencies to several Swiss ports. TK may look to bolster their presence in the Swiss market as such.
EVA Air’s suspension of flights is less surprising given their less than daily frequency and the high O&D nature of their direct flight from Taipei. While TK’s feed at Istanbul I’m sure helped boost the flight’s load factors the bread and butter of the flight was definitely tourist and business demand that either originated or terminated at Taipei or Istanbul. Given the current situation in the country and the lack of historical cultural ties between Turkey and Taiwan its understandable that tourists and package group travel would plummet. Add the fact that EVA is a relative new entry to the Istanbul market and is also a new(ish) Star member, we can see how this route got the axe. Look however, for Turkish to start the route to fill in the gap EVA has left behind or maybe even as a tag on to their Manila or Bangkok flights.
EVA will suspend services starting August 25. They too have said they will not re-evaluate the flight until at least summer 2017.