Turkish Delight!

Turkey’s national carrier, Turkish Airlines, although having been forced to ground various aircraft types towards the end of last year, still seems to have had a successful 2016.
Figures released by the carrier show that both passenger and cargo figures surpassed those of the previous year.

TK Cargo’s business is still running well, in contrast to its passenger activities  -  picture: TK
TK Cargo’s business is still running well, in contrast to its passenger activities - picture: TK

No mention of sector cuts and laid off aircraft
Turkish Airlines has been the rising star in the region during the past few years.
They have continually added new routes, increased their fleet dramatically and have become an air cargo carrier of some note.
However, the political disruptions and resulting restrictions within the country have seemingly put some potential passengers and investors on their guard.

This can maybe be seen when looking at the number of passengers flown during 2016.
Turkish Airlines transported a total of 62.8 million passengers compared to 61.2 million in 2015.
A rise of only 2,5% despite a noticeable increase in capacity.
It is interesting to note that the 2.5% increase includes only a 1,5% rise in international passengers, the main increase being on the domestic (+3.8%) sector. The average passenger load factor dropped to 74.6%.
The carrier added another 11 international destinations during 2016, whereby domestic destinations remained on par.

It has been said that up to 13 long-haul wide body aircraft, mostly Airbus A330 types, have been laid off towards the end of the year and that quite some routes have been thinned out or given up altogether.
This, if correct, is apparently attributed to the reluctance by a part of the traveling public to transit Istanbul due to the unrest in the country.

Freight tonnage went up again
Despite having less belly capacity on offer towards the end of the year due to aircraft lay-offs, Turkish Airlines Cargo carried a record 876,288 tons of cargo in the bellies and with its own freighter fleet.
A staggering increase of almost 22% compared to last year.
It seems that the Turkish Cargo fleet which is made up of eight Airbus A330-200Fs, three A310Fs and one A300F, along with over 80 long haul aircraft, have performed well during the  previous year.
Turkish Cargo has developed into a firm air cargo product over the past five year and the carrier offers connections to most major cities worldwide.


What will 2017 bring?
The developments of the previous year have not instilled much confidence in foreign investment in Turkey.
On the contrary, there are quite some companies looking at relocating their businesses from Turkey to other European destinations.
The future government policy is still unclear and fear is that trade between Turkey and the western countries may suffer considerably this year.

This would surely affect the air cargo flows on Turkish Airlines and slow down Istanbul’s development as a major Europe/Middle East air cargo hub.
So far, there have been no rumours or information that the Turkish national carrier is planning to thin out its all freighter fleet.
But, what about the lost capacity on the passenger fleet? Will that seriously affect this year’s cargo figures?

John Mc Donagh

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