Turkish Airlines will operate two cargo hubs when Istanbul’s new airport opens at the end of this year, Fatih Cigal, senior vice president, cargo marketing at the airline told Asia Cargo News.
Istanbul’s new airport, scheduled to have its hard opening on December 29, will give Turkish usable cargo area of 165,000 square metres with a handling capacity of 2 million tons a year from the get-go. This is up sharply on the 1.3 million tons it estimates for this year, its last at the constrained Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
“The mega hub will be one of the largest and most modern cargo facilities in the world,” said Cigal.
Ultimately the aim is for the new Istanbul airport to have a total capacity of 6 million tons said Cigal, some 2 million tons of which will be for carriers other than Turkish. There will be lots of capacity for everyone, officials say.
Cigal says the airline is aiming at “the top five” in terms of both volume in tons and in revenue. Actually, though, it’s more than that, with Turkish also thinking about something that alludes a lot of cargo operators – being a brand as well as a mover.
“By 2019 cargo operations will be carried out in the new airport cargo facilities, and so our targets will be increasing accordingly for the following years,” Cigal said. “With our new infrastructure, our growing fleet and evolving network capabilities, we are constantly raising the bar in the air cargo sector. We thus expect to reach 4 million tons annual cargo volume by 2023 and to be amongst the top five brands in the international air cargo sector.”
Against this, Turkish is taking what disruptions there will be in stride, seeing them as a trade-off necessary for a much brighter long-term future.
Turkish plans for the new Istanbul airport to become its bellyhold cargo hub with Ataturk being turned into a designated cargo facility. (Turkish has a 21-plane freighter fleet that will operate from there for at least a year: these are one Airbus A300-600F, three A310-300Fs, 10 A330-200Fs, three Boeing 747-400Fs and four 777Fs.)
Currently, one-third of the cargo needs to be moved between passenger planes and freighters, although Turkish plans to reduce this to less than one-fifth. “We took proper action in terms of capacity planning and sales,” Cigal said.
One example Cigal gave is cargo coming from Shanghai on a freighter, and then being moved on to a destination such as Brussels as belly cargo. In the future, Cigal says, it will be moved all the way by freighter.
Some cargo, of course, will still need to be moved between airports, and Turkish Cargo will launch a trucking operation with 150 trucks moving per day between Istanbul’s new airport and Ataturk, a distance of about 30 kilometres. The trucks are designed to carry ULDs, Cigal added.
Turkish, though, is not unduly worried about what would for some be a major headache, viewing it instead as the price it is willing to pay for much-improved facilities. It is expecting only a “slight increase” in cargo volumes next year, but a bounce-back in 2020. “It’s a small break to make a big movement,” said Cigal.
The airline is leaving Ataturk on a high note. “We will be up nearly 20% in gains, both in terms of volume and revenue in 2018. In 2017, Turkish Cargo carried 1.1 million tons, and we expect 1.3 million ton by the end of this year,” Cigal said.
Looking ahead Turkish expects an increase in both its own and global FTKs which will contribute significantly to outstripping AFTK capacity growth. This, in turn, means higher unit revenues compared to the first three quarters, he added.
The double-hub solution is expected to be a temporary one; once the operations are remerged, the new airport will allow Turkish to offer its customers a new depth of service.
One of these will be an automated storage system set to play a big role by limiting human impact while increasing speed, said Cigal. This will be supplemented by information systems and optimization studies, he added.
Features of a purposefully designed and state-of-the-art airport building will also help to move goods (and people) quickly. “We will have tunnels under the runway and taxiway to link the passenger terminal and cargo facility,” said Cigal. “It will decrease our tarmac time.”
These much faster connections will also allow Turkish to serve new sectors and new destinations.
One of Istanbul’s advantages is being central to much of the world, being 13 hours from key economic hubs such as Los Angeles in the West and Tokyo in the East. “We are in Istanbul a natural hub, in the most efficient way we can bridge all these markets together,” Cigal said.
Turkish recently started freighter runs to Brussels, Miami, Mexico City, Kigali, Muscat and Taipei. The goal is to add “at least 16” more freighter destinations, giving the airline more than 100 freighter destinations.
“We are looking at Indochina,” said Cigal, specifically mentioning Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
In India, where it already serves Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad, Turkish is looking to add Bangalore to serve the pharma market.
“We also have real interest in Latin America,” he said. “We are looking for the candidates,” while mentioning Caracas – a destination he acknowledged was “very challenging” – Quito and Panama City, although the plan is “to increase frequency into Brazil first.”
By Michael Mackey
Correspondent | Istanbul