German airline Lufthansa has rejected allegations that the company is worried about Turkey's flagship air carrier Turkish Airlines' (THY) growth plans Hurriyet Daily News.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advisor Yigit Bulut had accused Lufthansa of stoking the Gezi protests last year, saying the third airport planned for Istanbul would become a major hub and damage the prospects of Frankfurt Airport.
However, speaking to reporters at the ITB Berlin Trade and Tourism fair, Lufthansa's regional vice president of sales and services, Carsten Schaeffer, said he "could not understand" why Germans would not want the construction of the third airport in Istanbul.
"Previously, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Erdogan had talks regarding the new airport. The German government does not have any shares in Lufthansa. The chancellor could state an opinion, but it is us who will decide," Schaeffer said.
He also denied claims about the company feeling "uneasiness" over THY's growth plans. "Why would we not want THY to grow? Companies competing with each other do not ask each other, 'Can we expand?' We are in competition with THY and its growth would make me happy," he said.
Schaeffer, meanwhile, said talks were ongoing for additional Lufthansa flights from Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on the Asian side, adding that they wanted to use the airport to reach passengers from that side of the city.
"Ataturk Airport could not grow because it is located within the city. We are continuing to have talks with officials regarding additional flights. This region is important for us and we also want to have flights from here if the necessary transportation facilities are provided," he said, adding that the company wanted to split the flights into two between the Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports.
Touching on the construction of Istanbul's third airport, Schaeffer said a very good transportation network was necessary because the airport would be far from the European and Asian sides of the city.
Reflecting on the relationship between THY and Lufthansa and their respective governments, he suggested that there was a "much closer relationship between the Turkish government and THY."
"I read a piece from Temel Kotil [the CEO of THY] in which he gave references to Prime Minister Erdogan. There is a much closer relationship between the Turkish government and THY. The German government collects higher taxes from Lufthansa and spends it on airport infrastructure, while the Turkish government eases the procedure on tax," Schaeffer said.