German airline

Sun Express Deutschland will close down

"We were, are and remain the number one in Turkey tourism": Peter Glade, Chief Commercial Officer of Sun Express.
"We were, are and remain the number one in Turkey tourism": Peter Glade, Chief Commercial Officer of Sun Express.

Loss-making leisure airline Sun Express Deutschland has fallen victim to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and will be shut down with the loss of some 1,200 jobs. But its larger Turkish-based parent company Sun Express is not affected.

Sun Express, founded in 1989 and based in Antalya, is a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines that mostly flies between Germany and Turkey using Turkish traffic rights.

Nine years ago, the airline created Sun Express Deutschland to diversify its business model and fly from Germany to other holiday destinations, notably Egypt and Bulgaria. This Frankfurt-based carrier (which flew under the SXD code) expanded to a fleet of 20 planes flying mostly for tour operators but remained a niche player and was unable to move into profit.

Loss of some 1,200 jobs

With the Covid-19 pandemic effectively grounding most of the world’s passenger airlines and causing massive financial losses, the new Sun Express CEO Max Kownatzki has now been forced to liquidate the smaller of the two carriers. He officially informed the 1,200 staff of Sun Express Deutschland about the closure on Tuesday.

Sun Express' commercial director Peter Glade told fvw that 90% of passengers booked on SXD flights will be switched to other airlines and the remaining 10% will receive a rapid refund for their bookings. The flights to Bulgaria (Varna and Burgas) will be taken over by Eurowings while the Egypt routes will not be operated at all this summer.

Focus on core business

In future, Sun Express aims to focus on its core business of leisure flights from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to Turkey, taking advantage of its bases in Antalya and Izmir. The airline resumed domestic flights in Turkey on June 1 and international flights to Turkish holiday regions on June 10. According to fvw information, Sun Express will expand to a fleet of 70 jets by taking over 10 of the German carrier’s 13 short-haul planes.

In terms of Sun Express’ own prospects, Glade underlined that the airline has been "a loyal partner" for tourism in Turkey for 30 years, is a "reliable" partner for travel agents and is used regularly by the large German-Turkish community for flights between the two countries.

"We were, are and remain the number one in Turkey tourism," he declared.

Urge to "differentiate" travel warning for Turkey

In addition, Glade appealed for Germany to "differentiate" its extended travel warning for Turkey and said the airline planned to fly this summer on a flexible basis with "flights to order" for tour operators.

Sun Express CEO Max Kownatzki said in a statement: "The strategically appropriate decision to focus exclusively on our core business is also a bitter one. For all those affected, this is sad news, which was the result of a comprehensive and intensive evaluation of the situation. At the same time, this represents an important step for the future to strengthen the market position of SunExpress during the crisis and to emerge even stronger from the crisis."

Securing the airline’s competitiveness

Kownatzki continued: "With a centralized route network, a consolidated fleet and merged flight operations, we will secure the airline’s competitiveness and future viability and remain a strong and reliable partner for travel agencies, tour operators and our direct customers. We believe in a strong comeback of tourism to Turkey and in the strong, established relations between Germany, Europe and Turkey and will expand our flight schedule further over the upcoming weeks to meet demand."