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FlyService scalling the heights...

Posted 26 August 2011 · Add Comment

Serving more than 80 airlines in Turkey, FlyService Turkey could be said to have a successful business model. But, as Alan Peaford found out, that would be just one model among thousands at the Istanbul company's headquarters.

It is a fact of life in the aerospace industry that when you visit a company headquarters you will find a scale size aircraft model on a desk or credenza bearing the logo of the national carrier or some other key customer.

Entering the offices of FlyService Turkey by the perimeter of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered a manufacturing plant for the models – in fact, every model manufacturing plant in the world rolled into one building.

From reception, to the accounts department and even in the corridors, an amazing array of aircraft from Gulf Air Tri-stars through to the latest Emirates A380 is featured.

“We have here what we call our museum with some really rare aircraft,” said Burak Numanoglu, FlyService marketing director as he stepped cautiously around a metre-long model of a Turkish Airlines A330.

The models are part of what, by the end of the year, could become a world famous collection.

The collection is the personal property of FlyService’s founder and chief executive Gokhan Sarigol, an absolute aviation enthusiast. It is valued in excess of $3.5million and with just a couple of hundred more aircraft will become the world’s biggest collection of model aircraft and will earn Gokhan a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

“He has more than 5,200 aircraft in the collection. The previous record was 5600 but the owner of that collection died a few years back so, with this year’s purchases, Mr Gokhan will be the number one,” Burak said.

And the passion is catching. FlyService general manager Murat Intepe has 1,200 rare metal scale models himself.

The son of a dentist, in the 1980s Gokhan lived close to the relatively under-utilised runways of Ataturk and remembers as a 10-year-old being mesmerised by the daily arrival of the Pan-Am 001/002 round-the-world flights and getting his first model of that Boeing 747.

As Ataturk grew, so did Gokhan’s passion for aviation and his collections of models, airline safety cards, and his own photographs. He launched and ran for some years a Turkish aviation magazine but, in 1996, he started FlyService Turkey with four people to offer handling and representation for the growing number of airlines.

When the Turkish Airlines monopoly ended a whole series of airline start-ups began and FlyService realised it was able to provide essential services like ticketing, excess baggage, dispatching and fuelling to meet the demands of the new arrivals.

“We are now at the 32 airports throughout the country,” said Gokhan. “We man the ticket desks at the airport and have 24-hour support for our airline customers. Tourism is increasing all the time and more airlines come to the airports. We have developed a reputation for quality service and, with 15 years of experience, the airlines know we can deliver.

“They also know we deliver for a good price.”

With 170 employees and permanent staff at 23 airports, FlyService has become the number one airline representative firm in Turkey.

Airlines include famous names such as Asiana, Bahrain Air, Swiss, EasyJet, Aer Lingus and Norwegian.

“The numbers grow every year,” said Burak.

The company was hit hard by the failure of Kuwaiti airline Wataniya earlier this year. “We were left being owed a lot of money,” said Gokhan. “The trouble is it makes you look at the way you deal with certain airlines when that happens.”

FlyService has been opening downtown centres to add to its airline representation service.

“Some airlines open branch offices here but to operate they have to set up a Turkish company and then pay taxes. Increasingly they see the advantages of being represented and knowing that their operations are being handled and supervised by experienced staff when it comes to fuelling or last-minute changes,” Gokhan said.

“We have continued to grow because we don’t lose customers. All of our staff understand our goal – work hard and price competitively.”

Meanwhile, Gokhan is scouring e-Bay for another model bargain. “People love this collection,” he said. “There is history here and a passion for aviation, our customers and all the visitors like to see all the different types and aircraft.”

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