Turkish Airlines (THY) posted an outstanding set of traffic figures for July 2009 and presented substantial growth in its passenger, passenger load factor (PLF) and cargo figures. The results are very positive for THY, with the high season leading to a significant improvement in PLF which will in turn lead to an improvement in profit margins in the remainder of 2009. The growth in passengers was in line with our forecast of 13.8% for 2H09. PLF growth in July was also in line with our expectation of 75.9% for 2H09. We do not expect any additions to the fleet in 3Q09, thus the PLF should gradually improve in the months ahead. We expect the company to sustain its operational performance in 2H09 to reach 25m passengers in 2009, implying 11% annual growth. Note that THY's CEO targets reaching 26m passengers in 2009.
Passengers: THY's passenger base (pax) expanded by 13% y/y and 13% m/m to 2.5m in July 2009 following a 9% y/y increase in June. pax reached 13.7m in 7M09, implying 9.8% y/y growth. Pax growth was supported by rising international business class and transit passengers, with these categories increasing 2.5% y/y and 43.6% y/y respectively.
ASK-RPK: Available seat kilometres (ASK) rose 24% y/y in July. This outcome was due to THY increasing its fleet size (by 30 aircraft in the last 12 months) and the number of long-haul flights in 2009. Revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) recorded 20% y/y growth in July, supported by a higher number of flights (+12% y/y) and new destinations (+14% y/y).
Passenger load factor: Benefiting from the high season, the improvement in global sentiment and efficient fleet management, THY’s passenger load factor (PLF) showed a further improvement on a monthly basis to reach 75.7% in July. On an annual basis, PLF remained 260bp lower than the 78.2% figure posted in July 2008. The year-on-year decline in PLF is acceptable given the expansion of the fleet. However, PLF showed a 460bp m/m improvement in July from 71.1% in June, benefiting from the company’s capacity reductions after the sale of two A310 aircraft and the transfer of a third to the Sarajevo-based B&H fleet. Cumulative PLF declined 440bp y/y to 69.5% in 7M09.
Cargo: The total weight of cargo and mail carried increased by 14% y/y in July, pushing aggregate growth to 8.3% y/y in 7M09 on the back of improving economic activity in the last few months.
Outlook for the European markets: The cumulative pax of European scheduled network carriers contracted by 9% y/y in 1H09 and a further 2.2% y/y contraction is expected in July 2009. However, we believe THY will be an exception among European airlines and will manage to expand its passenger base in 2009. According to data from the Association of European Airlines (AEA), the average PLF of European carriers stood at 73.0% in 1H09, better than THY’s PLF. The main reason for the higher PLF of these firms was the 5% contraction in the seat capacity of European carriers in 1H09, while THY expanded its seat capacity by 26% in the same period.