RIZE, Turkey – Turkey’s national flag carrier flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, Turkish Airlines’ CEO said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Turkish Airlines – Turkey’s Evolving Face panel at Recep Tayyip Erdogan University in Rize, in Turkey’s Black Sea region, Bilal Eksi said the airline also flies to countries where there is no Turkish embassy.

“We fly to 34 countries in Africa,” Eksi said. “We connect the continent to the world through Istanbul.”

Highlighting the case of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, he said there is no other international airline offering service to Somalia, while Turkish Airlines connects Somalia to 124 countries.

Eksi said the company also contributes to Turkey’s tourism sector with every flight, adding:

“We don’t just carry passengers, but also culture, tourism, and develop business with entrepreneurs.”

He also said the country’s national flag carrier is one of Turkey’s most influential “soft power” tools.

Eksi stressed that Turkish Airlines currently has a fleet of over 330 aircraft, including passenger and cargo planes, an over fivefold rise from its fleet of 65 in 2003.

“In terms of fleet size, our company is the number 10 airline in the world,” he said.

Pointing to the company’s huge cargo network, Eksi said Turkish Cargo — a division of Turkish Airlines — ranks number two in Europe.

“We aim to be one of the top two [companies] in the world,” he said. “Towards this end, our efforts will continue.”

Eksi added that over 10 percent of Turkish Airlines’ revenues come from carrying mail.

Turkish Airlines, founded in 1933, flies to more than 300 destinations in over 120 countries.

Last year, the company carried 75.2 million passengers with a seat occupancy rate of 82 percent, and this year aims to reach 80 million passengers on domestic and international routes.

The airline’s net profit reached 4.04 billion Turkish liras ($753 million) last year, up from 639 million liras ($223 million) in 2017.

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