SunExpress (Güneş Ekspress Havacılık A.Ş.)


SunExpress is a venture jointly owned by Turkish Airlines – a company with very close ties to the AKP – and German company Lufthansa. It is continuing to expand its destinations. In 2017, the company carried 8.8 million passengers.

In 2018 it began operating direct flights from Germany to Amed (Diyarbakır), and in 2019 it will fly to Beirut, as well as more destinations in Egypt, Tunisia and Bulgaria.

Key people and their links to the Turkish government

Ahmet Fevzi Çalışkan is Deputy Managing Director of SunExpress, and was appointed when the AK Parti did its purge of Turkish Airlines, putting their friends in key positions of power in the company (see Turkish Airlines company profile). Çalışkan is one of Bilal Erdoğan’s circle of friends who attended the same high school as the president’s son (Kartal Anadolu İmam Hatip Lisesi).

Mehmet İlker Aycı is Chairman of the supervisory board at SunExpress. He is also the Chairman of the board of parent company Turkish Airlines. In 2018, Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech and acted as a witness at Aycı’s wedding.

Aycı served as an advisor to Erdoğan back in 1994, when the president was Mayor of Istanbul. In 2011, Aycı once more answered directly to Erdoğan when he became head of the government agency ISPAT. The agency promotes investment in Turkey in industries such as arms manufacturing, tourism and mining.

Aycı has been the President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), an umbrella organisation of over 170 investment promotion agencies from 130 countries. Today, Aycı is also the President of the Audit Board of the Turkish Football Federation, which is sponsored by Turkish Airlines.

Arda Ermut serves on the Board of Directors of SunExpress. In 2005, he began his career at the Prime Ministry of Turkey. Ermut reports directly to the Turkish president in his role as head of ISPAT, Turkey’s Investment Office.

SunExpress benefits from the gentrification of Amed

SunExpress has directly benefited from the ethnic-cleansing – and planned gentrification – of the old city of Amed (Diyarbakır). In June 2018 it launched new flights from Frankfurt, Hannover and Düsseldorf to Amed, stating in a press release that it “continues to support Diyarbakır tourism.” In September 2018, the airline brought international travel agencies to Amed to “introduce” them to the city.

Back in 2011, Tayyip Erdoğan stated that the government would “make Diyarbakır an international tourism destination.” In late 2015/early 2016, Turkey obliterated the city centre of Sur, displacing 50,000 people and killing hundreds of the majority-Kurdish population. After the destruction, then-Prime Minister Davutoğlu bragged that “we’ll rebuild Sur so that it’s like Toledo: everyone will want to come and appreciate its architectural texture.”

The Turkish government applied for Sur’s old city walls to become a world heritage site, and shortly before the ethnic cleansing of Sur,UNESCO granted it world heritage status. This listing has likely made land and property in Amed shoot up in value, making it attractive for investors. UNESCO was silent about the destruction of Sur, and the Turkish government even hosted UNESCO’s 40th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2016 – the same year that it destroyed Sur.

Take action

  • Don’t fly with SunExpress and its parent company Turkish Airlines.
  • Write to film studio Universal Pictures, telling that that advertising with SunExpress is bad for their image, as it links them to the Turkish state’s human rights abuses. Tweet at them @UniversalPics


SunExpress sponsors events such as the football match of German Legends, known as the “SunExpress Legend Game.”

The airline also cooperates with movie companies and film studios, such as Universal Pictures, to promote films onboard its flights by giving out promotional material. It even decorates the outside of the aircraft with film imagery.

Global Presence

Headquartered in Antalya, SunExpress flies to 107 destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa, with a focus on flights between Germany and Turkey.

Basic company information

Type of business:

A joint venture, SunExpress is 50% owned by Turkish Airlines and 50% owned by German company Lufthansa.

SunExpress Deutschland is a subsidiary, located in Frankfurt.



Number of employees:



1.15 billion Euros (2017)