Turkish Airlines will gradually reinstate flights from its hub in Istanbul to Belgrade, Sarajevo and Skopje towards the end of the month. The carrier will serve countries with which Turkey has held direct talks with over the resumption of operations. Services to the three cities are expected to restart on June 21 and will initially run three times per week, each Monday, Friday and Sunday, Ex-Yu Aviation news reports.
Flights to Belgrade will operate with the Airbus A321 aircraft, while the A320 will be deployed to Sarajevo and Skopje. At this point, Skopje Airport remains closed, although the country’s Civil Aviation Agency has said it expects for commercial services to resume during the second half of the month. Changes to the schedule remain possible. Turkish Airlines believes it will take four months to return to near full operations.
It plans to gradually build up its number of destinations to 99 countries in September although this may be subject to change in line with developments. The carrier flew to 126 countries prior to the pandemic. “Following two months spent away from the skies, our global brand is preparing for the new era by coordinating with national and international authorities”, it said.
Turkish Airlines is among the busiest carriers on several markets in the former Yugoslavia, among which are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Slovenia. The airline serves a total of eight destinations in the region, including Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Ljubljana, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Zagreb.
The Istanbul-based low cost carrier Pegasus, which also serves several destinations in the former Yugoslavia, is yet to announce its plans for the resumption of international flights, although all services have been canceled until June 14, with the airline reinstating some domestic operations last week. Among local carriers, Air Serbia will resume services from Belgrade to Istanbul on June 15, although this is subject to change.
Turkish Airlines will significantly alter its in-flight product once it resumes international flights later this month. On services from Istanbul to cities in the former Yugoslavia, business class passengers will only receive a bottle of water, while catering will be eliminated for economy class passengers, according to the company’s Chairman Ilker Ayci. There is currently no end date for the in-flight service reductions.
Mr. Ayci also hinted that he expects for flights to be much more expensive than before. The carrier will distribute all of its passenger a hygiene kit, which includes a mask, disinfectant and antiseptic tissue. The airline will also appoint a hygiene expert cabin crew which will monitor hygiene standards on board, mask usage and measures such as social distancing.