By John W. McCurry
Turkish Cargo, the freight service of Turkish Airlines, has ambitious plans for growth, and it seeks to continue the rapid expansion it has experienced over the last several years. The cargo carrier has averaged a 20 percent growth rate over the past five years.
“We have a strategy independent from market conditions,” says Mehmet Kizilkaya, Turkish Airlines’ regional cargo director for Central and Southern Europe. “Over the last 10 years, we are playing our own game. Of course, for the airfreight sector in general, the first half of 2013 has been challenging. Based on the positive indications, we believe that there will be a recovery during the second half of 2013 and for 2014.”
Turkish Airlines’ blueprint for growth includes a major expansion in its fleet, which now numbers 232 planes. That figure includes nine freighters and 45 wide-bodies. The Turkish fleet will grow majorly over the next three years, reaching 14 freighters, 71 wide-bodies and 338 total aircraft by the end of 2016.
Turkish Cargo is projecting growth around the globe, with concentration in Africa, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Asia and the Americas, but one region stands out for growth in 2013 and beyond.
“This is an Africa year for Turkish Airlines,” Kizilkaya says.
The southern region of Africa is “interesting,” and is a growing market for the carrier, Kizilkaya says. Central Africa, especially Nigeria, is a strong market, as are the traditional great markets of Algeria, Morocco and Libya.
“We have allocated resources to Africa and we believe in the future of Africa,” Kizilkaya says. “The developing nations will find that Turkish Airlines is a good partner and a good friend.”
The expansion into Africa has been brisk in 2013. Cargo flights to Khartoum, Sudan; Johannesburg; Nairobi; Entebbe, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda, have been added to the existing network. Trucking networks have also been added in South Africa and Nigeria.
Kizilkaya, who moved over to the cargo department in 2012 after working eight years on the passenger side for Turkish Airlines, says several factors are contributors to the airline’s cargo success. These include Istanbul’s logistics-friendly central location, a young, energetic, well-educated staff and aggressive investment in the company’s infrastructure.
“We are optimistic, but we are more than just optimistic,” he says. “We plan everything. We develop five- and 10-year budget plans and each year, we work hard to achieve our targets.”
Turkish handles a wide range of cargo. Recent examples include:
• 14 tonnes of gold shipments between September and October 2012
• 130 tonnes of live fish between September and November 2012
• 730 tonnes of mobile phones and computers between September and November 2012
• 335 tonnes of hunting weapons between September and November 2012
• 10 tonnes of live bird between September and November 2012.
A major facility expansion is also in the works at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. Turkish Cargo is on track to open a new dedicated cargo terminal in the third quarter of 2014. The new terminal will be 42,500 square meters (457,725 square feet), have a 1.2 million tonne capacity and have a special cargo are of 5,250 square meters (56,542 square feet). The current building is 23,000 square meters (247,710 square feet), has a 500-tonne capacity and a special cargo area of 1,200 meters (12,924 square feet).
“With the increase in our fleet and destinations, our base should also coincide with the high demand from our customers,” Kizilkaya says. “The expansion will allow us to handle more special cargo such as live animals and valuables.”