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Turkish Airlines begins landmark Istanbul–Melbourne service

written by Adam Thorn | March 4, 2024

Victor Pody shot TK168, the first Turkish Airlines 777 arriving from Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines’ first flight between Istanbul and Melbourne touched down in the Victorian capital on Saturday night.

The three-times-weekly service will initially operate via Singapore, but the carrier plans to turn the route direct when it takes delivery of longer-range aircraft.

The inaugural flight was operated by a 777, but the aircraft type will be replaced by the end of the month with more modern 787 Dreamliners and A350s.

Victorian Minister for Small Business Natalie Suleyman said, “Victoria is home to Australia’s largest Turkish community and all Victorians will benefit from more direct flights out of Melbourne – boosting local tourism across our state creating jobs and supporting small businesses.”

The 777, TK168, departed Türkiye’s biggest city at 5:55pm on 1 March as flight TC-LJF and touched down in Melbourne at 8:54pm the following day.


Australian Aviation’s Victor Pody was there to shoot the aircraft’s arrival.

The flight was made possible because the federal government relaxed Australia’s bilateral air services agreement with Türkiye.

The Turkish flag carrier was in December granted an initial 21 flights per week under bilateral air service agreements, which will increase to 28 in the latter half of 2024 and 35 the following year, as well as the fifth freedom rights necessary to fly via Singapore.

Both Sydney and Melbourne Airports confirmed last June that they had been in talks with Turkish Airlines for 787-9 flights starting by early 2024. It has ordered 15 longer-range A350-1000s capable of making the non-stop journey from Istanbul to Australia’s east coast.

British Airways is currently the only European airline that flies into Australia, with Austrian Airlines having pulled out in 2007.

BA flies daily between Sydney and London (Heathrow) via Singapore.

Meanwhile, the launch of the Istanbul service means Melbourne is now served by 39 international carriers – more than it served pre-COVID and its all-time record.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said the business worked closely with the Victorian State Government to bring Turkish Airlines to Melbourne and hinted services could grow over the coming years.

“Increased competition helps put downward pressure on prices, which will ensure Victorian residents and businesses can stay connected with family, friends and clients around the world,” she said.

“Melbourne is proudly home to the largest Turkish population in Australia, so we expect these flights will prove particularly popular with people looking to visit friends and relatives.”

The launch of the service also came two weeks earlier than its original planned start date of 16 March.

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