Turkish delight

posted on 20th August 2019
Turkish delight

Celebi Aviation has made the big move this year to Istanbul’s new hub and continues its overseas expansion into new markets, writes Justin Burns

Celebi Aviation has had a challenging year including making the big move in April from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to the new state-of-the-art Istanbul Airport.

In 2019 to date, the Turkish ground handling services provider has also had to overcome various difficulties in the markets it operates, but despite this, it has continued to expand the number of stations in its network, customers served and product line offerings.

Thomas Konietzko, Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing at Celebi Aviation, said there are widespread headwinds, which vary from market to market, but has managed to overcome them.

“Increased costs are a challenge for the GH’s and airlines alike. Airport parameters are tremendous, whereas distances have increased tremendously,” he said. “In Hungary, manpower shortage in a competitive market environment, Austrian airport authorities released a new license tender and in India, the initial outcome of the Airport Authority India (AAI) tender results have been disappointing, we shall observe developments here.”

Celebi he feels though is well positioned, as it is in solid agreements with airline partners to search optimal solutions for quality handling, in both ground handling and cargo. “Our current network across Europe, Turkey & India allows us to find best synergies to stimulate contractual negotiations and find new opportunities,” said Konietzko.


Celebi now has a presence in five countries (Turkey, India, Hungary, Germany and Austria) with 41 stations and among the new locations are in India, a key market focus, where it opened in Bangalore and Hyderabad and is signing new contracts with launch customers.

The ground handler has also made a major investment at its Frankfurt warehouse in the pharmaceuticals, temperature-controlled and dangerous goods area and has extended a contract with one of its largest customers for another two and a half years.
“We believe that our service quality is the benchmark for the Frankfurt market and rather than downsizing the operation, we feel stronger than ever and are currently in discussion to increase the business in Frankfurt,” said Konietzko.

Over in Hungary, he said business in Budapest, even though competitive, has been increasing as well and it has secured new customers on both the GH and cargo sides.

The Budapest market is one of the most vibrant in Europe for ground handling and cargo and Celebi sees a big opportunity to further improve service quality and capacity with a new Cargo City set to open this November in Budapest.

At its home base in Istanbul, Konietzko said there are also new opportunities to exploit, as more airline routes slots have become available due to the extra capacity at Istanbul Airport, and it has more space itself in a brand-new state-of-the-art cargo warehouse facility.

Celebi operates in four countries outside Turkey but will not stop there, as it planning to expand its reach in future, with markets in the Middle East, Asia and African on the radar.


India is currently the main market that Celebi is focused on and since it moved into the country 10 years ago, it has continually grown its operations.

Konietzko said it feels very confident and comfortable in India and airlines there like Celebi, so the main target is to expand in the pan-India region. “There is so much potential in those markets for us as a favourable ground handler in the region,” he said.

However, business in India has not gone as smoothly as it would have liked, as it had targeted winning a larger number of stations from the AAI tender it entered this year.

“The second run of the AI tender is the biggest opportunity for us to gain new stations and realise our growth ambitions,” said Konietzko.

“We have lost our largest customer in India, Jet Airways, as they have announced bankruptcy.

“At the same time, we must see this as an opportunity as well, as some of the slots from Jet are to be used by other airlines.

“Another challenge are high royalties to be paid by GH’s which prompted some domestic carriers to go for self-handling,” he added.


New trends in ground handling are always emerging and they vary from market to market but there are some that are the same wherever a handler operates.

Two that Konietzko said happening are low-cost and automation, both of which are resulting in challenges for GHs as air traffic demand continues to increase.

“We are constantly challenged for the rates in turn-around handling,” he said. “More and more airlines are considering going with self-handling, because they feel they can achieve cheaper rates.

“We have to adapt to all these things. Ground handlers need to see how they can still run a profitable, quality-oriented business, while always maintaining a safe environment.”

Another global trend is investment in sustainability and focusing on reducing carbon emissions. Celebi is helping lower its footprint in India by introducing advanced taxiing solution ‘Taxibots’, across key airports in India.

The company has signed an exclusive sale agreement with IAI/TLD for up to 40 Taxibot units across the country to ensure operational efficiency at the airports, in addition to reducing environmental damage.

The pilot controlled semi-robotic Taxibots are designed to significantly reduce fuel consumption by 85 per cent and foreign object damage (FOD) by 50 per cent, ensuring safety and lesser congestion at the airports.

“Use of Taxibots will also bring down the emission of CO2 and other noxious gases by 85 per cent, and check noise pollution at the airports by 60 per cent,” said Konietzko. “We are keen on helping the aviation industry to address environment concerns that important for all of us. Whatever we can do to think greener and to be more focused on the environment. We, as ground handlers, need to focus on these especially at the big industry events.”

Investments in other ground handling services like lounges are also set to take place this year and Celebi is always looking out for new opportunities to extend its services other than core products. A primary focus for this year, is to expand its premium services Celebi Platinum.

“We are participating in and outside of Turkey for meet and assists and lounges,” said Konietzko. “We would like to move this business from B2B to including more B2C in the near future.”

All in all, it has been a successful year to date for Celebi and to top it all off, it has become the first company in the world to undergo IATA Center of Excellence Certification for their in-house training programs.
“Celebi has a very specific culture in training and throughout our history we have been like a school to junior ground handlers who are just starting off,” enthused Konietzko. “This certification is the cherry on top of how well we have been executing our training (programs) for the past 60 years.”