On Turkish Airlines and the coup

There’s something of a running joke in our house about country names and democracy, mostly that the longer the name and the more references to democracy in it the less likely the government is to actually respect the democratic process. And so, watching the developments in Turkey over the past few weeks – and especially as they apply to the country’s flag carrier THY Turkish Airlines – I cannot help but shake my head in disappointment. They’re trying so very, very hard to prove that Turkey is a secular democracy, and in doing so demonstrating so very much that it is not.

The first statement from the carrier came shortly after the “attempted coup” of 15 July. The carrier took to Twitter to condemn the action.

Shortly after the coup was suppressed it shared news again, praising Erdogan:

Definitely more political than most airlines would be, but in the throes of conflict and with that being a strong broadcast avenue (1.39mm followers) – and one of the few still easy to control – seeing government influence there isn’t all that surprising.

In the weeks since the putsch, however, we’ve seen another type of revolution in action. Declaration of emergency law and purging of the military could have been easily foreseen following the botched uprising. The termination of 200+ employees at the airline seems a relative drop in the bucket compared to its total size, though an interesting scenario given that the carrier manages the presidential fleet.

Shuttering more than 100 media outlets and firing nearly 40,000 educators is much harder to rationalize, other than as a massive, over-reaching move to control the population and limit the free flow of information.

I’ve opined in the recent past that the inability to reasonably get news out of the country is sufficient to give me pause in visiting again; I cannot judge the safety circumstances without knowing what’s actually going on. That ability is getting worse, not better, as the government seeks to crack down on anyone not publishing the party line.

Not because I necessarily think Istanbul is dangerous but because the government there is doing so much to suppress news from getting out. If I cannot make an informed decision then the only smart decision is to stay away. And that sucks.

And so we come to the latest move in the bizarre interaction between the airline and the government in recent weeks: The renaming of the airline’s lounge at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.

Yup, the airport lounge is now renamed in homage to the unsuccessful revolution. Which is mostly ridiculous because no one is going to call the airport lounge by that name. It is the Turkish Lounge at IST and always will be. Maybe some awards show will use the full name in congratulating the airline some day, but it is a ridiculous move overall that doesn’t really help the airline other than to promulgate the message of the government. Yes, it is a flag carrier with a sizable government ownership stake. But moves like this are ridiculous pandering. They’re simply trying too hard.

And the irony of it happening at the airport named for Ataturk is hard to overlook.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. The lounge is lovely, but I’m not so sure I expect to be back there any time soon. Between uncertainty regarding political stability and public safety and not really wanting to support the operations of what appears to be a tyrant in action it is hard for me to see being in Turkey any time soon. And I’m really sad about that. I’ve had some great trips there and love the food, culture and people.

  1. It’s so sad seeing Ataturk’s legacy being traduced in this manner – who knows, perhaps Erdogan’s next move is to rename the airport after himself?

    I sort of agree with you regarding the length of countries’ official names, although there certainly are exceptions. But, offhand, I can’t think of any proper democracy which includes the title democratic in its official name. It’s rather like people, when saying something, adding the expression “to be honest” – always the sign of a lie coming!

  2. Star now has massive carriers in CAI and IST. I am sure not the strength they wanted to put forward. 🙁 I hope this settles soon.

  3. I have been of the opinion that Erdogan was going to make a move to gather more power. There are media pundits who are supposing that this “coup” was all made up. Which considering what has happened in Turkey before, isn’t far-fetched. We could be watching the beginning of a dictatorship.

  4. Open Question:

    Better to not visit Turkey since that somewhat supports Erdogan’s actions, or…
    Better to visit Turkey and stay/eat at local places to a) support proletariat Turks, and b) get better deals because tourism is waaay down?

    We’re trying to decide!

    1. My main concern on this front is one of personal safety. The government has done a number on the media in blocking access to legit information about what’s going on in the country so it is far harder to judge what is reasonable in terms of safety.

Comments are closed.