Turkish Airlines carried the highest number of passengers from Asia, Far East and the Middle East to Portugal through Istanbul and outdistanced its rivals in the same segment last year, the flag carrier's Porto manager told Anadolu Agency.
Turkish Airlines carried 285,908 air passengers to Portugal last year, of which 60% was transit, Ahmet Faruk Sahiner said.
"This figure includes many people of various nationalities such as Africans and Middle Easterners, but at least 50% of them were from Asia," he underlined.
Pointing to a gradual rise in the passenger number since the first flight to Portugal in 2005, Sahiner said the company aims to carry 300,000 air passengers to the European country this year.
Turkish Airlines flies to two routes in Portugal; to Lisbon since 2005 and to Porto since 2015.
"Passengers who visit Lisbon want to come back to the country to experience Porto next time," he said.
Sahiner also underlined the success they have in the Porto destination.
"We fly 10 times weekly in summer and seven times in winter. After four years, we set 100,000 air passenger target for Porto," he said.
Turkish Airlines connects Portugal to Africa and Asia, the manager said.
Carrying surfers from Asia
With great waves along its coast, Portugal is a top destination for surfers, Sahiner said, adding Turkish Airlines carries tourists especially from Asia to the surf haven.
"We carry the surf equipment for free for selected destinations so we become competitive price-wise," he said.
The flag carrier is organizing a golf tournament in Porto in June. “We used to sponsor golf tournaments. It will be great to organize our own,” he said.
Sahiner also said passengers from certain countries with a stopover in Istanbul for more than 20 hours are eligible for the accommodation service of Turkish Airlines.
"Generally Portuguese passengers utilize this opportunity," he explained.
The country manager also highlighted the common characteristics between Turkish and Portuguese people, like being warm-blooded and easygoing.
Sahiner also stressed the company posted a rise in the number of Portuguese passengers flying to Turkey with 35% year-on-year in 2019.
Touching on cargo carriage through its subsidiary Turkish Cargo, Sahiner said it carried the most of the goods to Portugal from Asia.
Last year 54,130 Turkish citizens visited Portugal, while the number of Portuguese tourists visiting Turkey was 34,000.
Turkish Airlines carried 74.3 million passengers in 2019, rising 1.1% on an annual basis. The company posted a 3.8% rise in passenger numbers on international routes.
The airline's passenger load factor or seat occupancy stood at 81.6% last year.
Turkish Airlines, founded in 1933, flies to 127 countries with its fleet of more than 350 aircraft, including passenger and cargo planes.