On Monday, a new airline began operating from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Turkish Airlines began a new route with nonstop flights from Atlanta to Istanbul.
Aviation analysts say Turkish Airlines routinely has some of the best fares in the industry because of low labor costs and that this addition could help lower international fares out of Hartsfield-Jackson across the board.
Atlanta-area attorney Sonjui Kumar is a member of the board on the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. She flew to Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities in India five times last year for family and business trips with Delta Air Lines.
"We have to do a lot of gymnastics to get to India now," Kumar said. "You have to book well in advance, fly on dates you don't want to because you're trying to get a reasonable fare. The flights are just packed."
South Asian Routes
The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates 146,000 people from South Asia live in the Atlanta area.
Aviation analyst Ashley Nunes said the addition of Turkish Airlines means more competition for other carriers operating from Hartsfield-Jackson.
Nunes called Turkish Airlines a "force to be reckoned with" and said it could translate to cheaper international flights for the South Asian community in particular.
"Airlines do a lot of research into optimal markets. Atlanta's particularly interesting because of the South Asian community," Nunes said. "Essentially they're offering them a one-stop to places like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. That's something that Delta could never afford to its customers."
Nunes said he has flown on Turkish Airlines more than a dozen times in the past and calls it a "strong value proposition" for Atlanta-area travelers because it offers cheap fares, but also access to amenities other airlines are cutting back on.
"They serve all economy class passengers freshly squeezed orange juice and mint lemonade, which is quite nice in an industry that has been going through a number of declines in terms of service," Nunes said.
Cheaper International Flights
Last month, Delta Air Lines said it was suspending direct flights from New York City to Istanbul – citing security concerns and weak demand.
Reese McCranie, director of policy and communications for Hartsfield-Jackson, said the airport works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and said they are "confident that there are no security concerns," with Turkish Airlines operating flights to and from Istanbul.
He said acquiring the new airline was a "big victory" for the airport and could translate to greater trade and investment in the city of Atlanta.
"Because of direct flights we have between Atlanta and Germany, Atlanta has [hundreds of] German companies with either headquarters or office locations inside the Atlanta region," McCranie said. "Those would not simply be here were it not for the direct service between Atlanta and various cities around Germany."
Seth Kaplan, an analyst with Airline Weekly, said Atlanta-area travelers can expect to see cheaper international flights as Turkish Airlines competes with Delta Air Lines.
"Not great news for Delta, but certainly good news for consumers. This is the airline that flies to more airports and countries around the world than any other," Kaplan said. "Turkish Airlines is just another competitor. It's not in a joint venture with those airlines, where it coordinates schedules and prices with them. It's out there competing on its own with lots of seats to fill and sometimes it has to discount rather aggressively to fill those seats."
Kaplan said having Turkish Airlines in Atlanta also makes it easier for people to fly to places more directly.
"Atlanta being the busiest airport in the world, there's plenty of nonstop access to the biggest destinations. But lets say you want to go to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Up until now, you had to stop twice to get there," Kaplan said. "Now with Turkish Airlines, you can change planes just once. It's not just maybe low fares because of all the new competition. It's also just a more convenient way to go to especially some of the out-of-the-way destinations around the world."
From Istanbul, Turkish Airlines connects to 289 destinations and 115 countries. The new flight departs from Atlanta daily.