The Turkish economy is presently having a tough time due to internal strife and the apparent drop back in foreign investment in the country.
This situation has not gone unnoticed by Turkish Airlines, who due to a drastic fall in passenger traffic during the past months, has been forced to put aircraft “on-ice.”
Does political uncertainty put IST hub at risk?
Although the cargo flows in and out of Turkey, especially to Istanbul, have dropped in the past six months, TK Cargo continues on its road to expansion and aims of establishing Istanbul as a serious hub competitor to its Middle East neighbours in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Turkish Cargo, as do its Mid-East competitors rely to a large part for their cargo growth on utilizing their home hubs as cargo transit centres.
This development in Istanbul seems to be holding steady as the carrier continues their cargo fleet upgrade programme.
There are cracks however in this facade as the political development in Turkey becomes more and more confusing day by day.
Many shippers are starting to question whether a further instability in the country will force shippers in the Far East and Europe to reconsider whether their cargo should be on TK freighters on routes which are used for transiting their goods through Istanbul.
Turkish Cargo continues their expansion
The above worries do not seem to be giving TK Cargo’s managers headaches for the time being.
The addition of another Airbus A330-200 freighter (see today’s Short Shots) to the fleet now gives Turkish a total of nine of these over 60 tons capacity pure freighters in their fleet. The recent delivery was the last A330F order from Turkish Cargo with Airbus.
In addition to the A330Fs, Turkish also has so called ACMI leases with MNG Airlines and ULS Airlines, both also Turkish carriers. These are for rather old aircraft which are used on shorter regional distribution routes. They are one Airbus A300-600F and two A310-300Fs.
Interestingly enough, MNG Airlines also has an outstanding order with Airbus for three new A330-200 freighters.
Are these maybe also earmarked for TK Cargo use in the future?
Boeing 777 freighters ordered
The Turkish national carrier is not in need of extra passenger aircraft at the moment and has just announced that they have converted an order with Boeing for two B777 passenger aircraft into 777F versions. This freighter carries more than 100 tons over longer distances that the A330F.
Another possible advantage for TK Cargo in the future is the fact that around 30 long and short-haul passenger aircraft have been grounded in Istanbul and Ankara.
Many of those are A330 pax versions which could be ideal candidates for freighter conversions in the future.
Turkish Cargo volumes up - Mid East volumes down
It is no secret that TK Cargo volumes have been increasing during the past two years in a strong double-digit percentage. Whether this has to do with the cargo rates on offer by the carrier or whether transiting Istanbul becomes more attractive, remains to be seen.
Fact is, despite the internal political strife, TK Cargo continues moving ahead.
On the other hand, it’s also no secret that cargo volumes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are starting to slow down.
Recent statistics show that both Emirates and Etihad Airways have reported stagnating cargo figures during 2016.
Etihad just about managed to hold their 2016 cargo volume at the same level as 2015, namely, 593,000 tons. Compared to the previous years, one can see this as a cargo shortfall.
Emirates paints a similar picture.
The fiscal 2015/2016 figures gave a healthy growth of almost 6 percent. However, the first six months of fiscal year 201/2017 are indicating no growth at all.
Qatar Airways Cargo seems to fare better, but this could possibly be because of their cargo partnerships they have set up, among others with IAG Cargo.
Cargo exports and imports have picked up since 2016, so where is the cargo flow deviating to?
Is it TK Cargo’s IST hub which is the new winner?
John Mc Donagh