Ascending Giant
    Category: Companies & People By : Justin Doebele Read : 995 Date : Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 07:21:53

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Temel Kotil, the chief executive of Turkish Airlines, holds up his cell phone, pointing at his call history page. It shows an incoming call at 3:41 am in the morning, Jakarta time, followed by an outgoing call at 3:44 am, about 10:44 pm Istanbul-time. “I got this call last night in my hotel,” says Temel. “Then I called my office in Istanbul.” The reason? A passenger had had a minor accident disembarking from one of the airline’s planes in Istanbul. He had called to check on the passenger and make sure she was getting proper medical care (she was).

    “We care about the passengers,” says Temel. This attention to detail may seem a bit extreme, given that the airline last year flew 300 million passengers. But Temel insists that this level of service is a big part of what has made Turkish Airlines into one of the biggest and most respected airlines in the world. “You solve problems by loving the passengers,” he says, in an exclusive interview with Forbes Indonesia during a brief visit to Jakarta. To back up his claim is a slew of awards—for example, Turkish Airlines has won the “Best Airline in Europe” award from global rating firm Skytrax for five years in a row.

    When Temel took over the top job in 2005, Turkish Airlines, known formally Turk Hava Yollari A.O., was just coming out of years of so-so performance as a state-owned airline that had been run by mostly military figures. Temel, on the other hand, was a professional holding a deep technical knowledge of the airline industry, with a masters degrees in aerospace engineering, and both a masters and doctorate in mechanical engineering, all from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

    He has also founded and managed an aeronautical research lab at Istanbul Technical University, as well as teaching there. (The airline, founded in 1933, is listed on the Turkish stock exchange with the government still owning a controlling 49% stake.)

    The numbers speak for themselves. In a dozen years at the helm, Temel has led Turkish Airlines through tremendous growth. In 2005, Turkish Airlines had 14 million passengers per year, flew to 83 destinations, and had less than 3,000 flights a week. In addition to its 300 million passengers, the airline last year flew to 339 destinations and had well over 10,000 flights a week.

    In passengers flown, it is the world’s fifth largest carrier after Emirates, Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France (excluding the big U.S. and Chinese carriers, which enjoy large domestic markets), as ranked by available seat kilometers (ASK). In profitability, its EBITDAR margin was 18.5% in 2014, second only to Emirates at 22.8% in the world, and edging out Singapore Airlines, with 18.1%.