SunExpress has received permission to operate dry and wet-lease services in North America.

Regulatory work on the Turkish side has not been completed. Up to 10 aircraft could be transferred across the Atlantic.

SunExpress B737 MAX Operation

SunExpress CEO Max Kownatzki told me recently in an exclusive interview that the airline has 47 Boeing aircraft, of which nine are the MAX 8s.

We phased in all nine MAX 8s within five weeks from mid-December to mid-January, and one has been retired.

“We currently operate our 737 MAX fleet 16.5 hours per day, and we want to increase this level to over 17 hours daily.”

SunExpress CEO Max Kownatzki

During the summer peak, the SunExpress fleet operates 16.2 hours per day.

The airline has an order for 33 more of the MAX 8s and will take delivery of five of them every year until 2029.

SunExpress evaluated both the larger and smaller versions of the MAX 9 and concluded that the MAX 8 fleet is best suited for the needs of the carrier.

He said that the new opportunities would come from the MAX. Turkey's Riviera coast is where we want to grow further.

In the summer of 2022, the carrier will add 25 new routes, offering 16,250 additional frequencies, of which 15,000 are to and from the Riviera coast. There are 175 routes to 60 destinations.

Photo: Boeing

Who is SunExpress? Their Business Model

Roughly 45% of SunExpress' business is based on tourism traffic, VFR and domestic flights within Turkey.

The number of wet-leased aircraft will be reduced in the fourth quarter.

The outlook for summer is strong, with some weeks already exceeding pre-pandemic demand. SunExpress doesn't have flights to Russia or Ukraine, so it's not affected by the war.

Some of our competitors in Turkey have zero percentage hedging. The fuel surcharge is a topic that is in the market.

The cost structure of SunExpress can easily compete with the Turkish ULCC.

The summer to winter drop for SunExpress is 40%. During the European winter, a fleet over capacity was created. 35 nations are working with us, and we have a total of 3,500 employees.

The airline made a profit of $60 million based on a 75% load factor, and transported six million passengers.

Photo: Getty Images

Joint Venture of Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa Group

The carrier has limited partnerships and is looking for further interline and code-share activities worldwide while the carrier is expecting to have a good share in a growing Turkish aviation market.

SunExpress has agreements with several airlines, including United Airlines, Air Canada, and Qatar Airways, as well as a code-share agreement with Lufthansa. SunExpress could connect with partner airlines from Star Alliance at the Turkish Airlines hub in Istanbul or at the hub of the Germanwings.

The partnership with Air Cairo has proven its value and we sell 70% of our tickets in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This is our strength. Air Cairo could give us more capacity. Combining their cost-competitive, safe and high-quality products with our sales expertise in relevant source markets creates a win-win situation.

The carrier does not plan to operate its own long-haul flights or establish an additional AOC in another foreign subsidiary, so a critical size for SunExpress is not necessary.

SunExpress is the number one tourist carrier in Turkey and contributes to the financials of the Lufthansa Group.

Turkey expects to have 42 million touristic arrivals in 2022, generating a $35 billion tourism turnover. For 2023, the figures will rise to 63 million and 2028 to 100 million arrivals. We expect further growth.

SunExpress CEO Max Kownatzki

The SunExpress joint venture of Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa Group has been in place for 32 years and is a story of mutual respect and financial success. SunExpress is well established in this partnership.

Ahment Bolat took over as CEO of Turkish Airlines in January. Bolat is well-known in both companies and within Star Alliance, so Kownatzki expects further successful cooperation with Turkish Airlines.