This decision has come unexpectedly for market observers and the media: Ilker Ayci, Turkish Airlines’ Chairman both of the Board of Directors and of the Executive Committee, has resigned from his post. So too have Mehmet Muzaffer Akpinar and Mithat Görkem Aksoy who belonged to the same governing bodies of the Istanbul-headquartered airline.
Meanwhile, Ayci’s position has been filled by Ahmet Bolat, who previously served in Turkish Airlines as Deputy Director for Investment and Technology. In addition, Captain Mehmet Kadaifciler and Sekib Avdagic, the Head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, were also appointed new Executive Committee board members, replacing predecessors Akpinar and Aksoy.
Resignations out of the blue
At least for outsiders, there was no prior indication of the management reshuffle at Turkish Airlines’ top deck. Even more surprising is the fact that there is not a single reference to these personnel changes on Turkish Airlines' site. No release, no statement, no farewell – nothing. Not even a brief thank-you to CEO Ayci, who had been in charge of Turkish Airlines’ fate since April 2015, a period spanning almost 7 years. Government officials have not commented on this either, at least not publicly. The state holds 49.12% in Turkish Airlines.
This fosters speculation, especially since under Erdogan leading officials have regularly been replaced by more loyal partisans if they do not follow his political course or only to a limited extent. The numerous changes at the top of the Central Bank or Statistics Authority show this, though not to the institutions' advantage, by the way.
Big guessing game
No wonder that Turkish aviation circles are puzzling over the exact reasons for the resignations. The range of speculation extends from internal power struggles within the management circle of Turkish Airlines, increasing pressure from the Ankara government for political or religious reasons on Mr. Ayci and the 2 other managers, or their leaving due to increasing state interference in management decisions. In any case, the reasons are unlikely to be of economic nature.
Convincing financial performance
The company’s financial records show that in the first 3 quarters of 2021, Turkish Airlines’ revenues were US$7.4 billion, while revenues from its cargo operations soared 125% to $2.7 billion, compared to the same period in 2019. The carrier’s nine-month net income was $734 million.
It has been the cargo business, in particular, that has helped Turkish Airlines to keep its head above the Marmara Sea’s water during dire Covid times, Mr. Ayci reminded in a statement on 18JAN22. “We learned from the past crises. When I took the helm of the company in 2015, my initial plans included the expansion of the cargo business. During the 2016 crisis, I realized that a more comprehensive crisis management plan was needed,” he told private channel CNN Türk 3 weeks ago.
Further to this, Ayci presented IATA figures, showing losses of the global airline industry amounting to $360 billion in 2020, and in the second year of the pandemic those losses standing at between US$80 billion and 90 billion. “In contrast, Turkish Airlines managed to post profits in 3 quarters!” he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, his chair has been taken by Ahmet Bolat. The 1959-born manager joined Turkish Airlines in 2005 and held the position of Chief Investment and Technology Officer since 2012 until his promotion. He was born in the central Anatolian province of Konya and obtained a Ph.D. in Industrial and Operational Engineering from the University of Michigan. Mr. Bolat has also been Deputy Chairman of the Turkish Aerospace Association since May 2018.
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