Sun Express flies record
DMax Kownatzki’s office is an aviation manager’s dream. From his desk, the head of the Sun Express company can see how his own planes take off from Frankfurt Airport when the wind blows from the east, and how they land when the wind blows from the west. So it’s tolerable that the joint venture between Deutsche Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines – both hold 50 percent – reduced office space in Frankfurt during the pandemic. Bottom line, it was the only downturn, there are more Sun Express in the post-crisis sky than ever before.
“Other airlines accounted for 80 to 90 percent of the pre-crisis traffic in 2022, we reached 130 percent,” says Kownatzki in an interview with the FAZ. There was “the largest network expansion in Sun Express history.”
Before that, however, there was a revolution. Until the corona pandemic, there was a German and a Turkish part of the company, the German part was given up, flight rights from Germany to Spain, for example, were lost. Now only one country is in focus: Turkey. All flights begin or end there – either in vacation spots like Antalya, where Kownatzki’s second desk is, he commutes constantly. Or in the eastern Anatolian province, where Sun Express takes relatives visiting from all over Europe.
Earthquake caused ‘immeasurable suffering’
The new year began with a stroke of fate caused by the earthquake catastrophe in Turkey. Kownatzki speaks of “immeasurable suffering”. Although no Sun Express employees died, around 30 lost their lives, some of them several relatives. “I was also in personal contact with most of them,” he says. He also experienced “incredible solidarity” in the “Sun Express family”. Within hours, scheduled flights became relief flights. There were 435 in total. More than 7,000 emergency workers were transported and 220 tons of relief supplies transported.
Now he is counting on more vacationers traveling to Turkey so that income from tourism can flow into reconstruction in the affected regions. “The terrible events will not change the fact that Turkey is a beautiful country with great people,” he says. Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV), also had Travel fair ITB called on to take a closer look at Turkey for vacation. “It is important for me to emphasize at this point that the popular holiday regions such as the Riviera coast were not affected by the earthquakes due to the great distance,” says Kownatzki.
Cost below competitors
He keeps expansion plans. “Our base fleet is now to grow from 49 to 60 aircraft.” Vacationers and relatives are to sit on board, the number of which is unlikely to shrink as a result of the disaster. “In Germany, almost four million people live with relatives or ancestors in Turkey.” Their visits are an important business that proved to be stable even during the pandemic. “At 45 percent, it takes care of almost half of our passengers,” says Kownatzki. In addition to a small remainder on Turkish domestic flights, tourists also make up almost half.