Turkish Airlines is reducing its volume of seats in Europe as Turkish tourism faces challenging times, although the airline is opening new routes to Latin America in December.

What with political turmoil and terrorist attacks while war ravages in nearby Syria, tourism in Turkey faces extremely challenging times, with an obvious result: tourism activity is collapsing. After declining by 1.5% in 2015, total foreign arrivals plummeted by 28% during the first six months of this year.

Most affected is the resort city of Antalya, with total arrivals down by 48% for the first 9 months of 2016 compared to last year. Istanbul arrivals are also down by 26.4%. Istanbul accounts alone for 30 to 35% of all arrivals to the country while tourism generates 10% of Turkish GDP and is a vital source of foreign currencies.

This has of course an effect on air transport activity. Last year, all airports in Turkey still managed to grow passenger traffic by 8%, however, international passenger activity declined already by 5%. This year, the decline is accelerating with international traffic falling in a range of 20%. Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, the country’s main hub is a major component of Europe’s air transport.

In less than a decade, the airport grew to become the third busiest on the European continent, behind London Heathrow and Paris CDG. The airport was served during the summer by 56 airlines linking Istanbul to 285 cities. Among airlines serving Ataturk, the most important is of course the national carrier ,Turkish Airlines, which has a market share of almost 77% in seat capacity.

The problems hitting Turkey are thus jeopardising Istanbul’s position as a hub and has forced Turkish Airlines to implement drastic reductions in its network’s capacity for this winter and to postpone new aircraft delivery. The Airline has decided to delay the delivery of 165 aircraft due to integrate its fleet between 2018 and 2023, and will consequently, in 2023, have a fleet of 421 aircraft instead of the 436 in its previous expansion plan.

For this winter, Turkish Airlines has adjusted services, taking into account the decline in the number of visitors to the country. Most destinations are still served over the winter, however with less frequency. Turkish Airlines has one of Europe’s biggest network, linking Istanbul Atatürk International to 142 cities this winter (including 42 cities inside Turkey). In total, some 50 markets are facing capacity reductions this winter.

According to OAG, over 5% of available seats/km have been cut. In Europe, capacities to and from Marseille and Toulouse are for example down by over 40% compared to the summer, and by almost 30% to Basle/Mulhouse or to Luxembourg. Cuts are also affecting large business cities in Europe such as Budapest, Copenhagen, Hamburg, London (Gatwick Airport), Madrid, Rome or Stuttgart.

Overseas, capacity cuts are affecting destinations such as Ashkabad, Baku, Canton, Dammam, Doha, Kano, Karachi, Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Taipei among others. Some destinations such as Aqaba, Genoa, Osaka, Pisa or Rotterdam are indefinitely suspended.

Surprisingly, the airline continues to expand in the Americas. On December 20, the airline is adding 3 weekly services on Istanbul Ataturk – Havana – Caracas with an Airbus A330-200. And it already announced to fly again daily from May 2017 to Sao Paulo/ Buenos Aires instead of 5 weekly flights.