Turkish Airlines dismisses 'false' reports of CEO feud

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Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil.

Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil.

Turkish Airlines has dismissed media reports its CEO Temel Kotil had been suspended after a series of disagreements with the airline’s board as “entirely false” and claimed the senior executive had simply intended to take pre-planned holiday leave.

According to a report on Monday by the Bloomberg news agency, the airline’s board was due to convene today to decide on Kotil’s future with the airline, just days after Turkish newspapers claimed the CEO had been suspended after a disagreement with airline chairman Hamdi Topcu.

Reports claimed the tension focused on an embarrassing u-turn on a decision to ban female flight attendants wearing red lipstick or nail varnish and the handling of a staff strike expected to take place on Wednesday.

While Turkish Airlines did not specifically deny Kotil had been suspended, it claimed he had previously planned to take holiday leave but this would likely be delayed until after the industrial action.

“Turkish Airlines would like to respectfully address the public in regards to recent media coverage surrounding the short term vacation of CEO Temel Kotil... Due to the current status of the process between Turkish Airlines and Hava-Is Labor Union’s “Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Turkish Airlines’ CEO Temel Kotil, has postponed the vacation he had requested to tend to his father’s illness until next week,” the statement said.

“Some media outlets reported that this situation resulted from a management dispute. This is entirely false; there are no disagreements within Turkish Airlines management,” it added.

On Friday, Kotil moved to quash a controversial ban on female flight attendants wearing red lipstick and nail polish, after an outcry by secular Turks worried the country is becoming too Islamic.

The national carrier had said in a statement this month the use of red and dark pink lipstick and nail polish would impair the "visual integrity" of its staff. However, Kotil told Reuters the order was made by over-zealous junior managers who did not consult senior bosses about the initiative.

"As to the lipstick, we had no problems but somehow low-level managers put together a paper without asking us and that paper leaked to the media and became a big issue," Kotil told reporters in London.

Asked whether there was a ban, he said "no", and confirmed female staff could wear lipstick and nail polish of any colour.

"As you know, some in Turkey are a little bit keen about these issues," said the fast-talking, US-educated Kotil, who has served as chief executive since 2005. "We are a great global carrier and we know what we are doing."

In a presentation, Kotil forecast operating revenue would rise to $9.7bn in 2013 from $8.3bn last year. No net income guidance was given. A decade ago in 2003, operating revenue was $1.9bn.

The airline, which says it flies to more countries than any other carrier, aims to increase passenger numbers to 46 million this year from 39 million last.

While aviation union Hava-Is has threatened to strike this month over pay, Kotil was optimistic such action could be averted.

"We love the union, we love our employees... and hopefully we can find a solution," he said.

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