Turkey-based leisure and domestic carrier SunExpress is to enter the Georgia market during the summer 2023 season with three routes to the country’s capital.
The airline, a joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa, intends to begin flights to Tbilisi from June. The routes will mark the LCC’s inaugural scheduled services to the former Soviet republic.
According to schedules filed with OAG, SunExpress’ first connection will begin on June 3, linking Izmir and Tbilisi twice a week. Flights from Ankara will start two days later, operating once a week, while a 2X-weekly service from Antalya will commence on June 15.
The latest data shows that the airline will face competition with rival Pegasus Airlines on all three other sectors.
Pegasus began flying to the Georgian capital from Antalya in May 2021, with a summer season route from Izmir starting the following month. Year-round flights from Ankara began in November.
At the present time, the airline serves AYT-TBS and ESB-TBS twice a week. During summer 2023, ESB-TBS and ABD-TBS will each be 2X-weekly, while service from Antalya will rise to 4X-weekly.
SunExpress’ planned entry to Georgia comes after CEO Max Kownatzki told Aviation earlier this month that the carrier was evaluating new markets to which it could connect to its home turf, the Turkish Riviera.
“Destinations like Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait can support us in balancing our seasonality,” he said. “The traffic rights are not a hurdle between Europe and Turkey, allowing for very dynamic growth there, but in the Middle East, they are rather restricted and differ from country to country. Hence, we are taking a step-by-step approach here.”
SunExpress plans to operate a base fleet of 60 aircraft in 2023, up by 11 compared with summer 2022. The airline targeted nine million passengers for 2022, “but we will very likely break the 10 million mark this year,” Kownatzki said.