We got the title deed of Almaty, there are “airport cities”

Handan Sema CEYLAN

TAV, which acquired Kazakhstan’s Almaty Airport with its title deed during the pandemic, and extended its Antalya Airport operation until 2052, will now establish “airport cities”, which have become a new trend from its metro to commercial areas, from accommodation to parking lots. TAV, which started to offer fuel services that it did not provide until now with the purchase of Almaty, integrated free shop, accommodation-hospitality services, catering services, transportation, technology and security services.

The “your captain is speaking” announcement, which we are accustomed to hearing on airplanes, will become true for all statements of TAV Airports from now on. “Serkan Kaptan”, who took over the position in May from TAV’s veteran CEO, Sani Şener, draws a new route for the company in line with his surname. TAV, which operates 15 airports, is present at 90 airports in 29 countries with other service companies. According to the captain, TAV’s service companies will be the leading forces at these airports, and with their reputation here, they will be able to aspire to operate the entire airport in time. The captain explained his new term goals to the WORLD.

TAV Airports Holding CEO Serkan Kaptan, who said that they won the tender for two major airports during the pandemic process, said, “There is no such thing as ‘a tender announcement was made at the last minute, I entered the tender,’ in our industry. You will follow the market for years because you may not be aggressive enough at the last minute. If you’ve dealt with it in the past, you know the risks you can take. Before the pandemic, there were markets we followed. In the pandemic, everywhere crashed to the bottom. But we did not stop,” he says. Asked about the renewal process of Antalya Airport’s tender before it expires, the captain says: “In the pandemic, the passenger rate of Antalya Airport dropped to 30 percent. But we knew it would increase. We were always ready, we had the advantage because we were already inside. We won the tender with our partner Fraport. Thus, we have moved our airport operation period, which will end at the beginning of 2027, to 2052. A 30-year agreement is an important source of morale for both our investors and our employees. We achieved this in the pandemic.”

Stating that their second success in the pandemic was to buy Kazakhstan’s Almaty Airport, which is the center of Central Asia, Kaptan said, “We started sales negotiations in 2018. Negotiations took a long time. We concluded the negotiations in May 2020 and took over this airport exactly one year later, in May 2021.” The captain pointed out that this location, which is in the middle of the Silk Road, is also important for China’s “Belt and Road” work, and said, “Most importantly, we do not have a 10-20-30 year privilege here, we bought it with its deed. A complete airport operation… Our overseas operations are always the operation of the port with all its services from A to Z. This is how we got the fuel business for the first time. We became an important fuel giant consultant. We are learning the process. Everything is developing very fast. There is more traffic than we expected in Kazakhstan. We anticipate that this year will be 6-7 percent higher than 2019”.


Asked how they manage the process in Kazakhstan, which was shaken by a political crisis a short time ago, Kaptan said, “Kazakhstan has a great potential. It has a population of 18 million. It is the largest landlocked country in the world, which is why they call it ‘Landrock’. Oilrich in natural gas and mineral resources. Kazakhs, like the Russians 20 years ago, are eager to travel, spend and experience the good. We got there at the right time. As you recall, there was an uprising on January 5th. During this period, we never closed the airport. We Turks manage well in times of crisis. As TAV, we have experience in extraordinary times. You know, on July 15, we experienced the most serious attack after the bridge at Atatürk Airport. In addition, we lost 47 martyrs in the treacherous bomb attack at Atatürk Airport. Before COVID, we experienced all of the global crises, from bird flu to Sars until September 11. When this problem was experienced in Almaty, we managed the process very well with the state authorities. The most important thing is that nothing happened to our employees or passengers. As soon as we realized that there was an armed attack on the airport, we took the passengers on the planes to our safe cargo warehouse.”


Kaptan explains that they are preparing to write better stories in Kazakhstan, that they will build a new terminal and invest 200 million dollars. “We are not just building a new international terminal here. We are also investing in a new state guest house and general aviation facilities owned by the President,” says Kaptan, and adds: “We are currently investing more than 600 million Euros in Antalya, and we are making rapid progress. At the end of 2024, we will see brand new facilities in operation there. We are increasing Antalya’s capacity from 35 million passengers to 70 million. That is very serious number. Antalya Turkey tourism Its capital is also the largest tourism center in the Mediterranean basin. In the Mediterranean, Antalya is followed by Mykonos or Ibiza, but the numbers are low. For example, there is a bed capacity of 350 thousand in Majorca, Spain, and there are 650 thousand beds in Antalya today. It will reach a bed capacity of 950 thousand in the next 20 years. In parallel with this, we will increase our capacity.”


Explaining that the number of airports they manage is 15, Kaptan said, “However, we are at 90 airports in 29 countries with the services we offer. While we wanted our service companies to develop, we were aiming to grow our network. Therefore, even before we fully operate a place, we are known there with the TAV brand. Thanks to the doors opened by TAV Operation Services or our IT company TAV Technologies, we plan to be at airports as investors. This is our development strategy in the new period. In addition, we plan to increase the available times in the places we serve. We plan to provide even more inclusive services by increasing other services such as fuel services.”


Regarding his services, the captain said, “We have HAVAŞ. We are also partners of THY and TGS. We cater to approximately 80 percent of the Turkish market,” he says, adding: “After HAVAŞ, Latvia Riga, we undertook all the ground handling services of Agreb Airport in the past months. It provides not only passenger transfer but also cargo services. This is a serious operation. Apart from that, we have BTA food and beverage companies, TAV Private Security and ATU Duty Free companies. The only service not on our chain is traffic control services, because the government makes it. We do not plan to go out of airport management. However, in the new period, we want to create airport cities, which they call ‘airport cities’, which are airport areas apart from terminal and classical airport operations. We operate hotels inside the terminals. We will be able to install this outside the terminal building in the airport city. Likewise, we will be able to build commercial centers and operate tram or metro stations and parking lots within the airport. In other words, we will contribute to the development of the airport, provided that it is connected with the airports. We will do this especially abroad.”


We are very close to 2019 in passenger numbers. Turkey is more fortunate in recovery. In general, European and worldwide expectations are that we will reach the figures of 2019 in 2024. Despite the Ukraine-Russia war, we believe that we will reach 2019 figures in 2023. We operate Ankara, Izmir Bodrum, Antalya and Gazipasa Alanya airports in Turkey. We are abroad in countries such as Georgia, Macedonia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Latvia. These are always emerging markets. In emerging markets, the post-crisis recovery is generally faster. Our strategy is to be in emerging markets. We are growing fast during the good times, and we are recovering quickly after the bad ones. Our recovery compared to 2019 is 85%.



While looking to the future before the pandemic, we used to say, ‘Airports stay, the big ones incorporate the small ones’. We were also thinking, ‘Big body planes carry passengers from one point to another, distribute them from there, and transport them to another point’. In the pandemic, ideas have changed a lot. This system, which we call ‘hub to hub’, and the idea of ​​giant planes died with the pandemic. For example, the production of the world’s largest aircraft, double-decker Airbus A380s, was stopped last year. Thus, for the first time in the world, when an aircraft was on the production line, its production was terminated. Also, some countries’ flag carrier airlines were sold. But they lost their characteristics and identities and disappeared. Government support is very important in times of crisis. THY is one of the best examples of this. Today, after the low cost airlines, which we call ‘low cost’ in Europe, it has the most customers; Turkish Airlines. The important reason for this is to have managed the crisis with the right policies and to provide quality service.


Low cost airlines are also an important trend. These low cost airlines do not fly to major airports. For example, they cannot fly to Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle in Paris. They go to secondary or tertiary city airports, which are cheaper. They are purely cost oriented. Of course, airport services suitable for this need will also be an important trend. The passenger already only looks at the cost in the more affordable flight. In the future, perhaps, there will be simpler terminals at the same airports, with a limited variety of services.


The importance of air cargo has not diminished despite the costs. Because we have become more impatient in the globalizing world. In e-commerce, everyone wants the product they buy to reach them the next day. I think this trend will be reflected in air cargo business. The number of cargo centers that we call multimodal will increase a lot. Let me give you another example from Kazakhstan. There is no sea in the country, but there is a great developed land-rail and airline. At the airport there, our cargo facilities have their own railway stations. One of the world’s most important fast fashion giants is sending cargo planes from Europe to Almaty. From here, the products are distributed to the region by small planes or trucks. Likewise, it transports the product it produces in China from Almaty to Europe. This type of transport will evolve.


We met with Serkan Kaptan and his team at the Shipyard Istanbul on the Golden Horn, where the 17th edition of Contemporary Istanbul was held. The captain answered our questions after the CIF Dialogues panel they sponsored with TAV Passport. The moderator of the CIF Dialogues panel, Director of the Genoa Museum, Mark Olivier Wahler, put himself on stage: “As a museum director, I am very envious of them. While we are looking for people to come to our museums, millions of people pass through their halls”, and I ask about their relationship with art. The captain says: “We wanted to offer a different experience in the areas where passengers expect, apart from shopping at airports. We took the first step for art while operating Atatürk Airport. We have reserved a large permanent exhibition space in the check-in hall. Then we focused on art in Ankara and İzmir. We have taken this business to the next level in our lounges. In our CIP hall in Georgia, we exhibited oil paintings and sculptures of local artists. Then we carried it to our other lounges. When you enter our halls, you see works of art on the walls, you come across objects on the tables. Below are the codes, our friends at the reception of the lounge give information about the artist to those who are interested. This is the airport dimension of our view of art. We are also involved in art in our own offices. We worked with a Turkish artist to promote digital art in our 7-floor head office in Istanbul. He has over 60 works. There are works by popular artists in our collections, and we support young artists as well.”