Several Douglas DC-3s and Douglas C-47s were phased in during 1945. Being initially set up as a domestic carrier, the airline commenced international services with the inauguration of Ankara–Istanbul–Athens flights in 1947; the DC-3s and the C-47s enabled the carrier to expand its network.
Nicosia, Beirut and Cairo were soon added to the airline's international flight destinations. However, domestic services remained the Turkish carrier's main focus until the early 1960s.
THY Douglas DC-10 in 1974 wearing the airline's initial colour scheme
The airline was plagued by several difficult issues. It developed a reputation for poor customer service and delays. It also endured hijackings and suffered seven accidents between 1974 and 1983. The most notorious was the 1974 crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 981 when a faulty cargo door broke off in flight near Ermenonville, France, resulting in the deaths of 346 people.
A new government came to power in 1983 which recognized THY's importance as Turkey's ambassador to the world, beginning the airline's makeover into a modern operation. It would maintain one of the youngest fleets in the world. Security was intensified, causing one shipper to compare it to Israel's El Al, at least in terms of delays.
THY built a new, state-of-the-art technical center at Yeşilköy Airport in 1984. The airline was capable of both light and heavy maintenance on a number of different aircraft types. Technical staff then made up one-quarter of the airline's 6,000 employees, according to Air Transport World. In 1984, the company's capital was raised to TRL 60 billion as it was classified as a state economic enterprise. Three years later, the capital was raised again, to TL150 billion.
By the mid-1980s, THY had a fleet of 30 aircraft. It was flying about three million passengers a year to 16 domestic destinations and three dozen international ones. The airline was Turkey's largest source of foreign currency. Turkish Airlines began operating Airbus A310s in 1985, allowing the addition of flights to Singapore in 1986. A route to New York City via Brussels was added in 1988.
The company posted losses in 1987 and 1988, largely due to high payments on its dozen new Airbus A310s, according to Air Transport World. The fleet also included 11 Boeing 727s and nine Douglas DC-9s. THY ended the decade with 8,500 employees.
The company suffered in the global aviation crisis following the Persian Gulf War and would not break even again until 1994. However, business was again booming in the mid-1990s, with the greatest growth coming from North American destinations. THY launched a nonstop flight to New York City in July 1994.
The company's capital continued to be raised, reaching TRL 10 trillion in 1995. During that year, the airline also converted three of their Boeing 727s to dedicated freighters. The DC-9s had been sold off. The company posted a $6 million profit on revenues of $1 billion for the year. While profitable, THY had to contend with Turkey's exorbitant inflation, making capital improvements difficult.
The domestic market was deregulated in 1996, allowing new scheduled competition from charter airlines. At the same time, larger international carriers were providing stiff competition on routes to Western Europe. THY entered into marketing agreements with other international airlines to enhance their competitiveness. The company teamed with Japan Airlines to offer service to Osaka and Tokyo in 1997 and 1998. Other jointly operated flights soon followed with Austrian Airlines, Swissair, and Croatia Airlines.
Turkey underwent an economic crisis throughout most of 2001, cutting traffic on domestic routes in particular. THY managed to survive after the September 11 attacks on the United States without a government bailout or mass layoffs, although 300 middle management positions were eliminated, 400 part-timers were laid off and wages were cut 10 percent. Turkish Daily News credited the airline's survival to entrepreneurial management, which was quick to get rid of loss-making routes at home and abroad.
In 2003, the war in Iraq prompted Turkish Airlines to close some routes in the Persian Gulf, while flights to Asia were suspended during the SARS epidemic. However, the airline soon recovered, increasing traffic on existing routes and adding service to Delhi after an 11-year lapse.
Another fleet expansion program kicked off in 2004, helping THY maintain one of the youngest fleets in Europe. In July, the airline announced a massive $2.8 billion order of 36 jets from Airbus, plus an order for 15 Boeing 737s.
THY was not just ordering new planes. It was planning to spend $350 million on a new technical and training facility at Istanbul's underutilized Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. The airline had built up a significant technical services operation, maintaining not just their own aircraft but those of third parties. Turkish Technic employed 2,700 and was planning to hire another 2,000 by 2010. THY also had three flight simulators and offered flight training services.
THY faced the entry of new competitors into the liberalizing Turkish aviation market. However, tourism was booming, with 20 million people expected to visit the country in 2005 versus 12 million in 2003. THY divested its 50% holding in Cyprus Turkish Airlines (Kibris Turk Hava Yollari) in 2005.
Although the company was publicly traded at this time, the government owned 98% of its shares. The privatization program was revived in 2004 with a public offering of 20% of shares on the Istanbul Stock Exchange. The Turkish government owned 75% of shares after the offering, which raised $170 million. Currently, the Republic of Turkey's Prime Ministry Privatization Administration owns a 49.12% interest in THY, while 50.88% of shares are publicly traded.
On 1 April 2008, Turkish Airlines joined the Star Alliance after an 18-month integration process beginning in December 2006, becoming the seventh European airline in the 20-member alliance.
In April 2010, TURKISH replaced TURKAIR as the new call sign for Turkish Airlines.
In December 2011, the Turkish government unveiled plans to modernize the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, which became one of the newest flight destinations of the carrier in 2012. The rehabilitation project is part of Turkey's broader engagement in the local post-conflict reconstruction process. Among the scheduled renovations are new airport systems and infrastructure, including a modern control tower to monitor the airspace. In March 2012, Turkish Airlines became the first international carrier to resume flights to Somalia since the start of that country's civil war in the early 1990s.
By the end of 2013, Turkish Airlines increased their number of flight points to 241 destinations worldwide (199 international and 42 domestic).
Development after the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt
In the wake of the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, the Federal Aviation Authority temporarily banned flights between Turkey and the United States. This posed a particular problem for Turkish Airlines as a key component of the airline's strategy was to deliver one-stop journeys between the USA and hard-to-reach destinations in Africa, the Middle East, and India. This ban was lifted on July 18, and Turkish Airlines resumed flights to the U.S. on July 19.
In August 2016, Turkish Airlines announced a profit collapse to a loss of 198 million Euros for the second quarter of 2016 while expecting an overall loss of 10 million passengers for 2016. The airline already announced significant reductions in operations for the upcoming 2016/2017 schedule period with frequency cuts to 45 European and 13 intercontinental routes. Turkish Airlines also announced an overall record loss of 1.9 billion Turkish Liras ($644.4 million) for the first half of 2016.
Miles&Smiles is the frequent-flyer programme of Turkish Airlines, inaugurated in 2000 after the airline left Qualiflyer. Earned miles can be used on Turkish Airlines flights, as well as on flights operated by the entire Star Alliance network. Miles & Smiles Classic Plus card holders are entitled to the same benefits of Star Alliance Silver card members. Elite and Elite Plus Miles & Smiles cards entitle the owner to the same benefits as Star Alliance Gold users.
Order converted from two 777-300ER. Deliveries in 2018
In October 2016, due to a downturn in domestic air traffic, the airline announced it was delaying delivery of 39 Boeing and Airbus aircraft (exact details were not specified) from its outstanding commitments for 167 aircraft (92 Airbus A321neos, 65 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 10 Boeing 737 MAX 9s). It is set to receive just 10 of 32 aircraft due in 2018, but all outstanding orders are expected to be fulfilled by 2023.
The airline's "Eurowhite" livery is a white fuselage with blue lettering, a grey tulip on the fuselage running from the rear of the wing to the tail, and a red tail with the company logo in a white circle.
In the past, the airplanes were painted white on the top with four red stripes going across the fuselage and the tail white with a red center that included the emblem; instead of a white emblem with a red circle for a background, the emblem was red with a white circle. The bellies of the planes had an aluminum finish, while the nose was black, and text on the plane read "THY Türk Hava Yolları-Turkish Airlines" on the left side; on the right the concept was the same with different text reading "Türk Hava Yolları-Turkish Airlines THY".
The "Eurowhite" livery (a white fuselage with blue lettering) and a grey tulip figure on the fuselage (running from the rear of the wing to the tail) have remained the same.
Turkish Airlines won the Skytrax awards for Europe's Best Airline, Southern Europe's Best Airline, and the World's Best Premium Economy Class Airline Seat for three consecutive years in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It retained its status as the top European airline in 2014, 2015 and 2016, thereby holding the title for six years in a row. Additionally, Turkish Airlines was selected the Airline of the Year by Air Transport News at the 2013 Air Transport News Awards Ceremony.
Turkish Airlines Flight Academy was established by the 28th THY Board on 10 November 2004, and started training with 16 cadets on 1 May 2006. The Flight Academy is based at Istanbul Atatürk Airport and uses the nearby Çorlu Airport for training activities.
The fleet of the flight academy consists of the following 14 aircraft:
On 3 February 1964, a Douglas C-47, registered as TC-ETI, on a domestic cargo flight, flew into terrain whilst on approach to Esenboğa Airport, Ankara. All three crew members on board were killed.
On 23 December 1979, a Fokker F28-1000, registration TC-JAT, on a flight from Samsun-Çarşamba Airport to Esenboğa Airport struck a hill in Kuyumcuköy village at Çubuk, Ankara, 32 km (20 mi) north-east of its destination airport in severe turbulence. Three of the four crew and 38 of the 41 passengers on board were killed.
On 16 January 1983, Turkish Airlines Flight 158, a Boeing 727-200 registered as TC-JBR, landed about 50 m (160 ft) short of the runway at Esenboğa Airport in driving snow, broke up and caught fire. All of the 7 crew survived, however, of the 60 passengers on board, 47 were killed.
On 3 October 2006, Turkish Airlines Flight 1476 en route from Tirana, Albania to İstanbul was hijacked by Turkish citizen Hakan Ekinci in Greek airspace. The hijacker surrendered after a forced landing in Brindisi, Italy.
On 25 February 2009, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, a Boeing 737-800 registered as TC-JGE carrying 128 passengers and a crew of 7, crashed during final approach to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands. It was determined that a faulty radar altimeter caused the aircraft to throttle the engines back to idle and that the crew subsequently failed to react properly which resulted in an unrecoverable stall and the subsequent crash. Of the 135 people on board, nine people, including the three pilots, were killed. Eighty-six more people were transported to local hospitals.
On 3 March 2015, Turkish Airlines Flight 726 departed the runway on landing at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal. The Airbus A330-300 operating the flight, TC-JOC, was severely damaged when its nose gear collapsed, causing damage to the fuselage and both wings. All 227 passengers and 11 crew members on board escaped uninjured.