The sustainable journey of Turkish Airlines

Navigating the skies while prioritising climate action: Turkish Airlines aims for growth with its young fleet and sustainability practices


Turkish Airlines’ remarkable journey began in 1933, marked by humble beginnings with five aircraft and fewer than 30 employees. Today, it stands as a global aviation powerhouse, flying to more countries than any other airline worldwide. With an average age of 9.3 years across its fleet of 400 aircraft by the end of 2023, we proudly operate one of the youngest fleets in the industry. Anchored by our flexible structure, dedicated workforce, Istanbul hub, modern fleet, and expansive network, Turkish Airlines continues to soar to new heights in the aviation industry.

2023 marked the 90-year anniversary of Turkish Airlines. As the national flag carrier, we have been growing at a rapid pace throughout, which is undoubtedly the result of successful sustainability management. Turkish Airlines announced its ‘Sustainability Vision’ back in 2009, and we further committed and highlighted our sustainability efforts with the motto ‘Tomorrow On-Board’ in order to ensure that sustainability management processes are managed with a common corporate understanding. ‘Tomorrow On-Board’ represents the path followed, the point reached, and future sustainability practices in light of our ‘Sustainability Vision.’

Commitment to climate action
Turkish Airlines’ sustainability efforts are guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), ensuring a focus on environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic resilience. With our agility and sensitivity in an ever-evolving environment shaped by regulatory changes and emerging global and sectoral trends, the sustainability agenda and targets are constantly evaluated and developed to stay ahead of the curve.

Sustainability is not a one-time goal – it is a journey of continuous improvement, collaboration, and collective impact

At Turkish Airlines, sustainability is not a one-time goal – it is a journey of continuous improvement, collaboration, and collective impact. With Turkey’s ratification of the Paris Agreement and its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2053, we have reviewed our strategies, also in line with global requirements and stakeholders’ expectations. Demonstrating our support for the global fight against climate change, we have set our target to become a Carbon Neutral Airline by 2050, and we are determined in our pursuit of a more sustainable future for aviation. This long-term emission reduction target has taken its place as the cornerstone of Turkish Airlines’ growth strategy, involving a multifaceted approach that covers fleet modernisation, the continued use of sustainable aviation fuel, increasing collaborations on this issue, sourcing energy from renewable sources, and reducing and offsetting emissions.

Sustainable aviation practices
Turkish Airlines carries out its operations by adopting a comprehensive sustainability strategy aimed at reducing carbon emissions and minimising environmental impacts. Fuel efficiency studies focusing on reducing emissions are at the core of this strategy. We improve our fleet by investing in fuel-efficient aircraft, engine upgrades and utilising the latest technology. Since 2008, more than 100 operational optimisation projects and aircraft configuration projects have been successfully implemented to reduce the carbon footprint. In 2023 alone, these efforts saved 75,148 tons of fuel and prevented 236,751 tons of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere. The total fuel savings achieved since 2008 amount to 748,496 tons, with prevented carbon emissions reaching 2,357,764 tons.

Recognising the key role of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in reducing emissions, we have integrated SAF into our operations and carried out our first flight using aviation fuel obtained from sustainable sources in February 2022. Since then, use of SAF has been expanded to additional routes and frequencies.

In addition to using SAF, we are seeking collaborations to increase the production and use of SAF, which is currently produced in limited volumes globally. By signing the Global SAF Declaration, which signifies a joint commitment by stakeholders in the aviation, space, and fuel sectors to decarbonise aviation, we have reaffirmed our commitment to fighting climate change. In 2023, together with Boeing and Istanbul Technical University, we established Turkey’s first sustainable aviation platform and became a founding member of this initiative.

Moreover, we provide travellers with the opportunity to participate in the fight against climate change through its CO2mission Programme. This programme offers a platform where passengers can easily and practically offset their flight-related emissions. The projects, available in three different portfolios for passengers’ preferences, consist of globally certified, carbon credit-generating climate change combat and social development projects that serve nine separate SDGs. Within the scope of our CO2 mission, emissions resulting from all duty flights of employees are balanced by Turkish Airlines.

Beyond aircraft operations, we have introduced sustainable practices in passenger services, such as adopting digital boarding passes and providing digital reading materials to reduce paper consumption. These initiatives, coupled with the use of biodegradable packaging and eco-friendly amenities onboard, underscore our commitment to sustainability. Additionally, investments in renewable energy sources and collaborations with stakeholders highlight our holistic approach to sustainability. By harnessing the power of the sun, we aim to further reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable energy practices.

Turkish Airlines remains steadfast in its commitment to sustainable growth, innovation, and stakeholder value creation

In 2023, we participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Climate Change Programme, the world’s most respected reporting platform for climate change and environmental degradation. We achieved an ‘A-’ score in CDP evaluations, which is above the average of the air transportation industry and in the leadership band. We have been continuously increasing our score since joining the CDP. At the beginning of 2023, we became a supporting member of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and reinforced our support for the SDGs. Aware of the importance of TCFD recommendations in increasing transparency regarding climate-related risks and opportunities, we aim to publish our Climate Transition Plan in 2024.

Analysing the current situation in the industry, we participated again in the performance evaluations of national and international indices and sustainability rating agencies, meeting stakeholder expectations by providing a transparent communication network with relevant parties. We aim to increase performance by ensuring continued participation with these indices and rating agencies, which include: DJSI, FTSE4Good, MSCI, EcoVadis, Sustainalytics, TPI, and Borsa Istanbul Sustainability Index. The evaluations made by the world’s leading rating agencies and the scores obtained from all ESG performance evaluations of 2023, both on a company basis and on an industry average basis, increased compared to the scores in 2022. As a result of the evaluations made by Ecovadis, Turkish Airlines was deemed worthy of an award in the ‘Silver’ category in 2023.

Achieving competitive success
In navigating the complex interplay of market dynamics, technological advancements, and regulatory landscapes, Turkish Airlines remains steadfast in its commitment to sustainable growth, innovation, and stakeholder value creation. As we embark on this journey towards a more sustainable future, we do so with the conviction that our actions today will shape the aviation landscape of tomorrow, ensuring that Turkish Airlines remains a beacon of excellence, resilience, and foresight in the years to come.

Turkish Airlines has adeptly responded to recent market shifts, aiming to bolster its position as a leading global airline. Despite challenges like geopolitical tensions and fuel price hikes, we maintained a focus on our key values. By effectively managing cash and expenses, the airline navigated through turbulent times and emerged with robust financials, outperforming peers in the European network carrier segment.

Turkish Airlines’ wide destination network and operational flexibility have been instrumental in setting us apart from the competition. Swift adaptation to changing conditions has enabled us to maintain leadership in daily flight operations, while our air cargo brand, Turkish Cargo, has risen to become one of the top global air cargo carriers through strategic investments and expansions. Strategic investments in fuel-efficient aircraft and subsidiary companies are key to maintaining a competitive edge.

In 2024, we seek to solidify our position through operational and financial success despite pandemic-related challenges, laying the groundwork for future growth. With clear targets set for passenger revenues, fleet expansion, and international market reach, we are poised for accelerated expansion, supported by strategic investments in fuel-efficient aircraft and subsidiary companies. In an increasingly competitive landscape, we prioritise understanding customer demands, cost control, and rapid adaptation to market changes. With a clear vision outlined for the next decade, we planned out strategic goals focusing on passenger experience, digitalisation, and sustainability. Looking beyond 2033, we aim to double aircraft and passenger numbers, targeting revenues exceeding $50bn, while also demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility through various initiatives.

Leveraging our extensive flight network and modern fleet, we aim to emerge as a global airline group, delivering value to stakeholders and contributing to sustainable development goals. Our journey towards sustainable excellence exemplifies our commitment to environmental stewardship, innovation, and leadership in the aviation industry. Through strategic initiatives and partnerships, we are setting new standards for environmentally conscious aviation operations, aiming to shape a sustainable future for air travel.