Turkey and Canada agree to allow Turkish Airlines to fly to Vancouver [Updated]

Sticking point had been an air services agreement that only allowed Turkish carriers to fly to two Canadian cities

Taylan Tokmak
Turkish Consul General Taylan Tokmak sits at his desk at the Turkish consulate in Vancouver | Rob Kruyt

Turkish consul general in Vancouver Taylan Tokmak told Business in Vancouver February 7 that the air services agreement between Turkey and Canada has been amended to enable Turkish Airlines to fly non-stop to Vancouver starting this summer. 

"That agreement is amended to three cities and it is done, official," he said, adding that the agreement was officially amended on February 7. 

He said that he has a copy of the agreement but was not able to share it. 

Turkish Airlines had earlier allotted a Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 airplane to fly on the Istanbul-Vancouver route, Tokmak told Business in Vancouver yesterday (February 6). That showed that the airline had a lot of confidence that the air services agreement would change.

The air services agreement had previously allowed each country’s domestic carriers to only fly to two cities in the other country. Turkish Airlines already flies to Toronto and to Montreal.

“The company’s decision to allocate aircraft, and announce that, is important since we are not the only consulate or embassy requesting aircraft from Turkish Airlines,” Tokmak said yesterday. “We could succeed in preventing a possible delay of many months.”

He said that the airline plans to launch non-stop flights between Vancouver and Istanbul on June 9, and fly the route three times each way per week because that is what the change in the air services agreement is expected to allow.

“We will look into ways of increasing that later on,” Tokmak said.

The aviation website Routes Online said the airline is accepting flight bookings and that flights leave Vancouver International Airport at 5:20 p.m. and arrive at Istanbul Airport at 2:50 p.m. the next day. Flights leave Istanbul at 2:05 p.m. and arrive in Vancouver at 3:50 p.m. on the same day.

Flights are expected to be on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

BIV has previously reported that, in mid-October, Turkish Airlines posted a notice to the investor relations part of its website saying that it “has decided to start operating scheduled flights, based on market conditions, to Vancouver, Canada.”

The notice was a heads-up to investors, given that slightly more than half of the venture’s shares trade on the Borsa Istanbul stock exchange. The Turkish government holds the remainder.

“Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau called President [Recep] Erdoğan on January 22,” Tokmak said February 6. “Besides many other topics being discussed between two NATO allies, both leaders confirmed their countries’ interest in further developing bilateral relations and they both identified direct flights to Vancouver as a valuable tool contributing to that aim. It is a win-win scenario with strategic value for both sides.”

B.C. exported $151.4 million worth of goods to Turkey in 2018, according to BC Stats. About 81% of that was $123.3 million in coal and solid fuels manufactured from coal.

Canada was the source of approximately 0.4% of imports into Turkey in 2018. Approximately 1.1% of exports from Turkey were destined for Canada in that year, according to BC Stats.

Istanbul Airport opened in 2018 and is undergoing expansion that by 2028 is expected to enable it to handle 200 million passengers annually. Dozens of non-stop routes fly from there to countries such as Iran and Russia and would speed travel time to those destinations from Vancouver.

BIV reported in 2016 that the Vancouver Turkish Canadian Society (VTCA) launched a petition on Change.org, calling for an airline to launch the route. The petition closed with 1,549 supporters.

Tolga Tosun, who was then president of the VTCA, told BIV in November that he believes that if non-stop flights between Istanbul and Vancouver launch, they will be packed with people and that business and cultural exchanges will flourish.

Note: this article originally had the headline "Turkish Airlines confident obstacles can be overcome to fly to Vancouver," as it was written on February 6, before an agreement was signed.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom