Turkish Airlines set to buy 95 planes from Boeing

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The Turkish national carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) said on Tuesday that it would buy 95 more planes from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing as the airline pursues a shopping spree launched in December.

"Our board of directors has decided to buy 20 planes in 2016, 20 in 2018, 15 in 2019, 30 in 2020 and 10 in 2021 from Boeing to meet the need for narrow-body planes," a THY statement said, adding that 70 of the orders were firm ones, and 25 were options.

A breakdown of the aircraft on order showed that 20 were B737-800, 65 were B737-8 MAX and 10 were B737-9 MAX.

Financial details were not provided, but a Boeing official told AFP that the firm order for 75 planes would cost $6.9 billion at catalogue prices, while the options added $2.5 billion to the bill.

Discounts are common for aircraft orders however, especially when large numbers are involved.

"At the moment it is a commitment order," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We look to finalise the deal in the coming weeks," he said.

The announcement came less than a month after the airline said it would buy up to 117 planes from Boeing's main rival, the European manufacturer Airbus, with those deliveries scheduled between 2015 and 2020.

In December, THY passed orders for 15 long-haul A330 planes from Airbus and 15 777-300ER from Boeing. In February the airline followed up with a firm order for two more A330-300s.

With the latest purchases, Turkish Airlines is planning to double its current fleet of 215 Airbus and Boeing planes and expanding the destinations it serves by 50 percent.

The airline, twice selected as the best European airline, posted a 20 percent rise in passengers last year to 39 million.

It aims to reach 46 million passengers in 2013, generating a turnover of $9.7 billion (7.2 bn euros).

Unlike many European carriers which are suffering from a downturn in their market, Turkish Airlines is in an aggressive push to become a global airline player, putting itself in direct competition with Middle Eastern rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.

To boost the expansion in the Turkish aviation industry, the government last year moved to ban strikes in the sector, resulting in massive demonstrations by the THY workers and the dismissal of 305 of them, who are still waiting to be rehired.

Turkey's aviation union Hava-Is said on Tuesday it was planning to stage another strike and refuse any settlement proposals from the giant carrier "that do not involve the reinstatement of the 305 workers," in a statement.

The government was quick to respond to the plans although Hava-Is is yet to announce a date for the strike that is likely to involve thousands of THY workers who are signed up with the union.

"We will do what is necessary to prevent any initiative that would interrupt the operations," Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. "I say it loud and clear, THY is not alone."

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