No drinks on Turkish?

What happens when societal attitudes impact on an airline’s on board offerings?

When I flew with Turkish airlines last year, their on board catering blew me away. Catering that included an impressive wine list. Whilst researching the airline, I was interested in the number of conservative Turks who lambasted the airline’s “lax attitude to alcohol” which is viewed as incompatible with religious practice. For an airline that has the slogan “Globally Yours”, this gives room to potential conflict.

In February this year, the airline stopped serving alcohol on most domestic routes “due to logistical considerations.“. The airline only serves alcohol to business class on flights to six of its 36 domestic destinations (Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, Ankara, Bodrum and Dalaman). Commentary in the Turkish press that Turkish Airlines is responding into the conservative elements in the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

At the same time, Turkish airlines increased from two to eight the number of countries where alcohol is not served on their flights. Turkish gave the reason for expanding the list as a result of “requests by concerned countries.” The criteria is “where the flag carriers of those nations do not serve liquor.” The countries include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, Senegal and Niger. While, some passengers on these flights would be open to having an alcoholic drink, others would be disappointed to have alcohol served to someone next to them.

Recently the airline has been warning passengers to keep their drinking under control as a result of the “drunken antics” of some Russian passengers. These “antics” resulted in police intervention in 2012 for 28 “unruly” Russians. In March this year, one drunk man had a heated on-board argument with his wife and then the Russian soccer team. Surely not a wise choice of target?

Is the airline responding to the market? Is it caving into political pressure?

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  1. Very thought provoking blog. I bristle at the idea of an airline telling me what I can eat or drink, but then also realize that Turkish airlines probably doesn’t serve pork, and I would guess no one is complaining about that not being on the menu. But, then again, pork doesn’t change how people behave – well, except my husband, who is German and, therefore, pork makes him happy.

    As a traveler, I’m okay with their not serving alcohol, for whatever reason. But if I’m asked to wear a head scarf, there will be trouble.

  2. Perhaps it is a mixture of both but definitely it is political pressure which is the main dominant factor. I think I read somewhere, that in those countries where alcohol is banned, they start serving as soon as the aircraft is out of air space of that particular country. But then I thought alcohol is freely available in Turkey so why to ban on the aircraft?

  3. I read the other day that the airline will not allow stewardess wear “red” or “pink” lipstick — think i will not fly them

  4. Not only no drinks, but cabin crew now can’t wear certain colors of lipstick, have platinum blonde or certain shades of red dyed hair, and the FAs are apparently none too happy about it.

    @caveman: Yes, other than in smaller towns in certain conservative areas, alcohol can be readily purchased in most places in Turkey.

  5. Don’t understand the problem. It is their airline and their culture. If they do not want to piss off a segment of their own population, why should they cater to your need for booze?. Plenty of other airlines out there and nothing wrong with being dry if that is what they want and what is expected by their fellow countrymen. Here in Canada, AC has to provide service in both English and French. Regardless of what you think of that, since they are both official languages they need to oblige.

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