Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Konya, Turkey, December 17, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS)
“When all phases are complete, Istanbul airport will sit in the leader’s chair,” Turkish Transport Minister Cahit Turhan was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst specializing in Turkey at the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, told The Media Line that the government has a keen interest in promoting Turkish Airlines by transforming Istanbul into a more significant aviation hub.
"Over the past decade, Turkish Airlines has been one of the most successful sides of the country's soft power [efforts]," he said, adding that it is one of the few examples that Ankara can highlight to "truly capitalize on the cliché of being a bridge between East and West.”
The airport cost about $11 billion and is one of the most high-profile mega-projects undertaken by Erdogan. During last year’s presidential election, he was filmed on a plane landing at the airport while it was still under construction.
Selim Sazak, a US-based expert on Turkey, agreed that Turkish Airlines has helped improve the country's international image, noting to The Media Line that the company even maintains unprofitable routes to places where Turkey is seeking to increase its influence such as central Asia.
The growth of Turkish Airlines has also helped Erdogan domestically. Along with budget carrier Pegasus, the corporations have made flying more affordable, thereby enabling those with lower incomes to travel throughout the country.
“That played into Erdogan’s popularity a lot,” Sazak said.
The airlines also provide inexpensive options for Turks living abroad—including 3 million citizens in Germany—to visit Turkey.
The aforementioned low-income groups in addition to members of the Turkish diaspora comprise an important part of Erdogan’s political base.
However, demand from Turkish customers could decrease due to a currency crisis, whereby the Turkish lira dropped 30 percent last year. This, in turn, caused rapid inflation resulting in a rising cost of living.
Ahead of local elections in March, the main Turkish opposition CHP party contrasted the hefty price tag of the new airport with regular citizens struggling to afford food.
Sazak contended that the money could have been spent on more efficient ways to help Turkish Airlines expand, such as by adding more routes.
"If they were willing to invest this money…wasn’t there a better use for it?,” he queried.For more stories go to themedialine.org
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>