Билял Арпаджъ, директор за България на Turkish Airlines

Starting this August, flights from Sofia to Istanbul will be three daily, and from there, the carrier flies to 290 destinations, said Bilal Arpaci, Turkish Airlines’- one of the most successful airlines of the world- general director for Bulgaria.

Mr. Arpaci, what impressions do you have from Bulgaria? What do you like here and what would you like to see improved?

My first impressions from Bulgaria are from Varna, since at the beginning I arrived as a director of the office there. This was two years ago, we opened on May 30, 2014 the Istanbul-Varna flight as the second one to Bulgaria. Later, I came to Sofia. Thus, most of the impressions I have are from those cities. After my two years here, I can say that I like Bulgaria very much. And there are good reasons – splendid nature, mostly unspoiled, greenery, the taste of food, traditions… I think we have lots of common in that respect, which makes us close. Regarding what should be changed: I think the development processes are a bit slower than expected, but I believe that all would gain a momentum in coming process.

Recently, you increased the frequency of your flights to Bulgaria. What new should we expect, what are your plans?

airlines2Let me summarize what we’ve done until now. As I said already, we opened a second gate to Bulgaria, to Varna, in 2014 and we have 11 flights weekly throughout the summer season. We will continue our scheduled flights to Varna in winter as well with daily operation. Turkish Airlines is flying to Sofia since 32 years already, the frequency of flights having increased gradually, leading to 3 flights daily starting August this year. Thus, Bulgarians and the country’s guests alike will have an even better connection to the world, since Turkish Airlines is flying from Istanbul to a great number of destinations – 290.

In your opinion, is a joint BulgarianTurkish tourist product possible – e.g., city tours in Istanbul, in Sofia, etc. – in case of a longer layover?

Of course, thinking about such projects, as part of the development of tourism between two neighbor countries, is so normal. However, travel and tour operator companies are the ones that should work on this subject, as our business is in providing the right transport links. As I said, we’reflying 290 destinations from Istanbul, and Sofia is connected through 3 flights a day to our hub there; thus, the conditions are wonderful. I could certainly say that we’d support any good initiative for the development of the travel industry.

According to your data, which destinations do Bulgarians seek the most? And where do Turks fly to the most?

airlines4I have not that much of statistical data but rather my own observations. Of course, Istanbul ranks always first, then, as far as I concerned they generally visit Antalya, Bodrum, the region of Kusadasi, and other resorts of Turkey’s seamless coasts. Since within the last few years we made our flights to multiple places around the world more frequent, and because airfare became more affordable, my citizens also started to travel more. Europe is most sought after, as well as the countries that not required visas, in order to avoid lose time and money as well for getting a visa. Other preferred destinations are the attraction cities of Americas, Middle East, Far East regions, and etc. of course.

You had great achievements, you won prestigious awards. What did you win your customers with? What advantages do you have over other air carriers?

Thanks to our esteemed passengers, we received for a sixth time in a row the best airline award for the last Skytrax survey that announced at this week, which demonstrates a huge achievement. We hope to continue in this way, getting more stronger to be the best airline of the world in a close future. These awards are the prior determinatives of our success and commitment to please and satisfy our all passengers both in the air and in the ground as well. In my opinion, the first criterion is the large coverage of destinations we fly to. In this way, travellers can reach with us almost any point worldwide; they don’t have to switch planes, which makes the travel more easier and comfortable. Another advantage is our young fleet, featuring top-level jets with more seating space for every passenger, which ensures a more comfortable travel. Other factors are our world-renowned Turkish hospitality that we always display for our passengers in our flights, the unique cuisine on board, the varied entertainment options – we’re offering TV, films, children’s games, and even Wi-Fi on some flights. There’s also a larger checked baggage allowance – up to 30 kg, which is a great convenience for our passengers.

What are your development plans? What else can you do to surprise your customers?

This is a good question. We’re working continually to respond to our customers’ needs, but let’s let surprises remain surprises…

How did Turkish Airlines achieve developing itself so successfully in such a short time? What is the formula of success?

Indeed, Turkish Airlines saw a great deal of development during the last few years and turned into an example of success. However, I find it hard to formulate how exactly this was achieved. There’s no recipe saying „do this, then that“… Success cannot be prescribed like a miracle pill. The foundation is that we’re constantly focusing onto the expectations and the needs of the customers and we’re working so hard to satisfy them in every respect.

airlines3You also have a prize for excellent food. Do you offer Turkish specialities? Which ones are your favourites? Do meals differ depending upon the destinations you fly to?

Of course, we offer different Turkish specialities, and there’s a wide range of offer in this regard for every taste. Standard meals are also on the menu, as well as special offers for children’s food, vegetarian dishes and seafood versions. My favourite speciality is Dana Kulbasti, a kind of grilled beef, and among desserts – baklava. I recommend them to everyone as a traditional Turkish dessert!

Which places in Turkey would you recommend visiting? What should travelers not miss?

Turkey has many different wonder of nature regions, each one with its own charm. If you prefer our Black Sea region, we do have wonderful Yayla tourism at elevated places on the mountains, which offer plenty of greenery, calm, and possibilities for various activities such as jogging and tracking, along with exploring the forests and mountains. One of the regions not so popular among Bulgarians but incredibly beautiful is Cappadocia, with its characteristic rock churches. You may see it from above, from a balloon flight. I recommend it strongly! Another hidden treasure are two charming small towns on our Mediterranean shore – Kaş and Kalkan-, a beloved place to me. It‘s not as popular as Bodrum, Antalya, Ceşme, etc., but it’s a lot more tranquil and magnetic.

I thank you cordially and I wish success to the best airline of Europe!

A Maria Petkova interview

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