Turkish Airlines’ İlker Aycı Receives 2021 APEX Lifetime Achievement Award


Photo (left to right): APEX/IFSA CEO Dr. Joe Leader and İlker Aycı, Group CEO & Chairman at Turkish Airlines, with some of Turkish Airlines’ cabin crew

At APEX/IFSA EXPO 2021, Group CEO & Chairman at Turkish Airlines İlker Aycı became the latest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade reserved for members of the industry who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to the enhancement of the airline passenger experience.

During his introductory speech, APEX/IFSA CEO Dr. Joe Leader confirmed that  Turkish Airlines’ İlker Aycı is the first European to take home the award for his repeated examples of facing seemingly impossible challenges head-on. 

Aycı became Chairman of Turkish Airlines in 2015 after serving on its Board of Directors for only a year. When Istanbul Airport was targeted by a terrorist attack that caused 48 casualties and injured 230 the following year, he attended the scene and worked round the clock to make sure the airport was open to continue operating flights at 5am the next morning. 

At the outset of COVID-19, he shared a sanitized travel preparedness plan that Turkish Airlines had created months before. It went on to become APEX’s emergency deployment plan during COVID-19, benefitting the entire airline industry.  

At the end of his speech, Leader asked Aycı, “What positive lessons can we learn from your story?” He went on, “Build for the future with gusto. If someone tries to blow up your world, then run towards the challenge … When you become a five star airline, strive to become even more.”

On receiving the award, Aycı said “If you want to be a leader, then whenever you’re presented with a challenge, you have to have only one response, “challenge accepted.”” But in facing challenges, Aycı outlined the importance of “not only fighting for the balance sheet or for the shareholders,” but for the organization’s principles and values. “At Turkish Airlines we have 17 companies and 60,000 staff. If there’s a challenge, I have to make the best decisions I can on their behalf.”

Aycı explained that from his perspective, leadership is not just about being visionary, which many people and teams are and can be. “It’s about turning that vision into reality. That’s leadership.” 

He rounded off his speech by thanking his fellow airline leaders for their work tackling the challenges presented by COVID-19, stating, “the aviation industry is strong enough to fight against every crisis we face.” 

Read more about Aycı’s contribution to the airline industry here.