A look at Pegasus Airlines’ rapid and profitable expansion
By Mike Malik, Chief Marketing Officer at Cirium
I had the pleasure of meeting Güliz Öztürk, CEO of Türkiye’s Pegasus Airlines, at the Airline Strategy Awards in London on 16th July where Pegasus was the recipient of the European Airline award for 2023. Türkiye is currently one of the world’s fastest expanding airline markets. That’s in big part thanks to Pegasus Airlines which has been growing at a staggering pace.
A story of success for Pegasus Airlines
Pegasus Airlines, a low-cost carrier, is scheduled to fly 18% more seats this quarter than it did in the same quarter of 2019, before the pandemic.
The quarter includes the peak summer season, when Türkiye welcomes the greatest number of tourists, and its airlines earn their highest profits. According to a company press release, Pegasus achieved a net profit of €431 million for 2022, on €2.45 billion. During the year, it flew 26.9 million passengers, 16 million of which flew on international routes.
Unlike its competitor, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus flies only narrowbody planes. Like its rival, however, it flies many international routes, connecting all of Europe with not just Türkiye but also the Middle East and Central Asia. A key part of its business model is selling ancillary products and services such as preferred seats, inflight meals, and bag handling. Today, roughly a third of its revenues come from ancillary sales.
What are the biggest markets for Pegasus Airlines?
Let’s look more closely at the airline’s network, using data from Diio, Cirium’s industry-leading airline analytics system. Most of the airline’s seats fly into or out of Istanbul’s secondary airport Sabiha Gökçen, located on the Asian side of the city. It also offers many nonstop flights from Türkiye’s capital Ankara, as well as to its many popular beach destinations, including Antalya, Bodrum, and Dalaman.
Outside of Türkiye and Northern Cyprus, Diio shows that the three busiest markets for Pegasus this summer by seat capacity are Tel Aviv, London Stansted, and Moscow Vnukovo.
Its biggest country market though, is Germany, where it flies to 12 different airports. Other big country markets include Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Italy. In total this summer, Pegasus will serve 46 countries other than Türkiye. A few like Pakistan, Poland, Finland, Armenia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Bulgaria are new to the network since 2019.
The busiest route for Pegasus this summer is Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen to Antalya, which carries a lot of connecting traffic from Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. It is flying fewer seats today on this route, consistent with an overall decline in domestic flying since the pandemic. On the other hand, it’s growing rapidly on international segments. For example, its seat capacity from Sabiha Gökçen to Tel Aviv is up by 43% since the summer of 2019. Capacity from Antalya to Tel Aviv has almost doubled. It’s opened many new routes too, including Ankara-London Stansted, Istanbul-Astana, and Istanbul-Karachi. Russia is one of its biggest expansion markets, adding new routes and new flights to take advantage of a boom in Russian tourism and emigration to Türkiye.
How is Pegasus Airlines growing so fast?
Thanks to a big aircraft order with Airbus. Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows 100 planes currently in its fleet, 31 of them A321neos. Another 42 A321neos are on the way. About half of these are scheduled to arrive next year. Might it place another big order to aid its expansion efforts beyond 2025?
At the IATA meeting in Istanbul earlier this year, Pegasus CEO Güliz Öztürk talked about some of her airline’s top priorities, including its focus on fleet renewal, route expansion, digital transformation, sustainability, diversity, equality, and inclusion.
Though Pegasus was founded in 1990, originally as a joint venture charter airline backed by Ireland’s Aer Lingus, it didn’t adopt its current low-cost business model until 2005. Today, it also provides other services like cargo and aviation training. But flying passengers is still its chief activity, and it expects to fly many more of them in the years to come!