Vancouver to get Turkish consulate; maybe non-stop flights to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines wants to fly non-stop to Vancouver but air agreement is likely an obstacle

Turkish Airlines told Business in Vancouver that it wants to fly non-stop to Vancouver

As Vancouver’s first Turkish consul general readies his consulate to launch later this year, he and others in the local Turkish community are urging Turkish Airlines to launch non-stop flights between Istanbul and Vancouver.

The Vancouver Turkish Canadian Society (VTCS) launched a petition, which has more than 1,500 signatures, on Change.org to demonstrate demand for the flights.

“We’re trying to have a better connection with Vancouver,” said Anil Bora Inan, who recently moved to Vancouver to be Turkey’s consul general for B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

“There is a good relationship between both Toronto and Montreal with Turkey but we see that, toward the western area of Canada, we’re losing that [strong relationship].”

Part of Inan’s job, as he readies to open a consulate in the FortisBC building at 1111 West Hastings, is to help stimulate trade between the two countries. If successful, that will fuel more demand for air travel – particularly business travel, which is more lucrative for airlines than is economy seating.

Last year, according to BCStats, $98.6 million worth of B.C. products were exported to Turkey with the vast majority of that being coal and fuels made from coal. That makes Turkey the 21st top destination for B.C. exports.

There were no comparable numbers for the value of Turkish products that B.C. imports but Turkey exported nearly $1.3 billion worth of products to Canada in 2015.

The sticking point in getting non-stop Vancouver-to-Istanbul flights is likely the air agreement that Canada and Turkey signed in 2009.

Specific details of the agreement are confidential but it is the kind of agreement that enables limited access for airlines based in each of the two countries.

Turkish Airlines launched flights to Canada soon after the air agreement was signed and now flies six non-stop flights per week between Istanbul and Toronto. It also flies three non-stop flights per week between Istanbul and Montreal.

Air Canada flies non-stop flights year-round between Toronto and Istanbul on 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Summer service is daily and that drops to three times per week in the winter.

“While we’re continuing to evaluate the possibility of additional services, and there are no immediate plans to do so,” Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah told Business in Vancouver.

VTCS president Tolga Tosun told BIV that he believes that the Canadian-Turkish air agreement authorizes each national carrier the right to operate regular flights between the home country and two destinations in the other country.

That would seem to exclude non-stop Vancouver-Istanbul flights from consideration unless the Canadian and Turkish governments revise the air agreement to allow for liberalized access.

So far, Turkey sounds up for renegotiations.

“My [country’s] embassy in Ottawa, and the Turkish aviation authorities, are speaking with the Canadian government,” Inan told BIV.

Were the air agreement to be renegotiated, the Canadian government would likely seek input from Canadian carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet as well as from airport authorities and other stakeholders.

As for Turkish Airlines, which is a private company, its representatives would not say much.

“Turkish Airlines is certainly interested in coming to Vancouver,” said spokeswoman Valerie Stachurski.

“However, I am unable to comment on the circumstances surrounding timing or obstacles.”

The fear for many in Vancouver’s Turkish community is that if Canada does not pave the way for Turkish Airlines to fly non-stop to Vancouver, the airline could decide to fly non-stop to Seattle. That is particularly the case given that the airline has been rapidly expanding its number of flights to the U.S.

The Vancouver Airport Authority similarly had little to say.

“We are aware of the petition put forward by the Turkish community requesting service to YVR by Turkish Airlines,” spokeswoman Alana Lawrence told BIV.

"We definitely welcome it and hope that one day it becomes a reality.“

gkorstrom@biv.com 

@GlenKorstrom