Domestic flights to Turkey’s eastern Van pricier than some European destinations

Insufficient flight schedules to Van, one of Turkey’s easternmost provinces, render plane tickets more expensive than some international destinations. The lack of travel options curbs Van’s tourism potential, and challenges residents in times of emergency. 

Kadir Cesur / Gazete Duvar

In Turkey’s eastern Van province, the long-standing issues of insufficient flight schedules and excessively high ticket prices continue to deepen. With no international flights and domestic flights nearly impossible to book, tickets to and from Van are the most expensive domestic flight tickets in Turkey, sometimes surpassing European flight fares.

As of June 26, the earliest available ticket from Van to Istanbul was for July 3, costing 3,388 Turkish liras (100 dollars) for a two-hour flight. On the same date, flights from Istanbul to Paris started at 2,216 liras (67 dollars). 

On July 2, flying from Van to the southern Adana province cost 3,391 liras, whereas going to the Austrian capital Vienna ticket was cheaper at 2,984 liras, despite the distance being around thrice as long.

Direct flights from Van to the westernmost İzmir were only available one month later, and cost 3,365 liras, while İzmir to London tickets started at 1,963 liras. 

Compared to last year, ticket prices nearly doubled. Due to the lack of flights, passengers resorted to connecting flights, with prices sometimes reaching 10,000 liras (300 dollars).

Tourism expert Murat Beyaz spoke to Gazete Duvar, noting that tourism agencies had repeatedly warned authorities about the high ticket prices and insufficient flights, but no action had been taken.

He said, “We warned every winter about the upcoming summer months when the issue worsens. We asked for a solution. How can it be cheaper to fly to Paris than Van? The difference is abnormal. The local administrators and politicians must resolve this, but the problem persists.”

Beyaz noted that travelers had to plan months in advance to secure flights to or from Van, and those facing emergencies could not find flights at all. “Even those willing to pay 3,500 liras for a ticket can't find a flight. People with emergencies, like funerals, illnesses, weddings, or business, are willing to pay but can't get a flight. Today, my phone rang multiple times. There's a funeral in Van, and people from out of town can't find a flight.”

He highlighted a disparity by comparing the Van Ferit Melen Airport to the Trabzon Airport in terms of daily flight numbers, calling it a double standard. “If flight numbers in Trabzon are not reduced and more flights are added, it means they have lobbying strength. Despite Van's larger population, the flight numbers show the disparity. If our flights are decreasing and people can't travel, it's because we lack strong representation.”

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry is organizing the Van Culture Road Festival from June 29 to July 7. Beyaz pointed out the irony of willing participants being unable to attend due to the lack of flights.

“This is a contradiction. People want to attend the state-organized festival, but can't find flights. No one has 18 to 24 hours to travel by bus. We'll be celebrating the festival among ourselves. The lack of planning is quite frustrating,” he said.

Beyaz also mentioned the lack of international flights, “Van has high tourism potential. First, we need more domestic flights, then activate international routes. Especially with the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iran, and Armenia, mutual travel should be established. This is crucial for Van’s economy and development.”

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)