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?