Turkish Airlines intensifies cargo focus

Ten years ago, Turkish Airlines was a budding passenger carrier with 75 aircraft, but in that time much has changed. Driven by demand its fleet has doubled to 150 and realising the significant scope for its air cargo business, the carrier has started to build up cargo capacity via its cargo unit, Turkish Cargo.

The challenge facing Turkish Cargo is one that most airlines would love to have to grapple with. It has been using its belly-hold capacity on passenger aircraft to meet the cargo demand from various destinations to Istanbul, capital of Turkey, for both import and export traffic. “For example, we have a monthly demand of 1,000 tonnes of cargo from Hong Kong to Istanbul, and we can just cover 500 tonnes (using our own aircraft), with the remainder flown by other carriers, as we do not have sufficient capacity,” says Huseyin Ceyhan, director of the Hong Kong office of Turkish Airlines. Turkish flies four non-stop passenger services per week between Hong Kong and Istanbul, providing bellyhold cargo capacity of its B777s, each of which provide 30 tonnes of cargo capacity. But that has changed with launch of a new, direct cargo freighter service four times weekly between Hong Kong and Istanbul from 15 October. This was made possible with the delivery of the first of two A330-200Fs. “This development is the outcome of Turkish Cargo’s stable growth and of our vision to expand our business as one of he major players in the air cargo sector,” said Abdullah Soner Akkurt, vice president cargo at Turkish. The second A330F will be join the Turkish fleet – now comprised of one new A330-200F and four A310Fs –in the first quarter of next year. “The A330-200F’s payload of 70 tonnes and range of up to 4,000 nautical miles (7,408km) positions it as the replacement for ageing midsized, long-haul freighters, and also offers opportunities to grow frequencies in under-served markets. The higher payloads and reduced operating cost will ensure better connectivity in our network and minimum transfer times,” Akkurt said. “The flexibility and the capacity offered by our new freighter will enhance our penetration in the Asia Pacific market.” The increased cargo capacity will strengthen Turkish Cargo’s long-haul freighter service, serving the rapidly expanding Chinese market while meeting growing demands for transit between Asia and Europe. “We are excited with the launch of this new freighter service, which will help us better serve the needs of cargo customers in the region,” says Ceyhan. He says Turkish Airlines expected the cargo business in Hong Kong and China to grow strongly in the next few years. “The Turkish economy is growing 7-9 per cent per year and the Hong Kong-Turkey demand will also grow,” he adds. Hong Kong, being the secondlargest cargo hub in the world, is a very important market for Turkish Airlines, he says, adding that the expansion of Turkish Cargo will further enhance the airline’s local presence and its penetration into the Asia-Pacific market. In addition, two new A330-200F freighters will be added to the current fleet, further enabling cargo customers from Asia to reach 168 destinations worldwide via Istanbul more frequently and at higher capacities, including many destinations less frequented by most other airlines, such as Tbilisi, Damascus and Maastricht.