The Baku, Azerbaijan-based carrier is one of the best-kept secrets in the cargo industry. Without much fuss or PR activities, it continually grows its business. Now the further upping of its freighter fleet is just around the corner.
Currently, privately-owned Silk Way West operates seven Boeing Jumbo freighters, among them two Boeing 747-400Fs and five B47-8Fs. Soon, two more units of Boeing’s largest 747-8F freighter
variant will complement the carrier’s existing fleet.
It was Jahangir Asgarov, Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) President, who made this announcement at the recently Baku-held 7th Caspian Air Cargo Summit. According to him, Silk Way West Airlines has opted against a leasing contract, instead decided in favor of purchasing the two additional -8F units from manufacturer Boeing. After the mighty freighters have joined the fleet, Silk Way West will offer the market an uplift capacity totaling 1,150 tons mas o menos.
Moving forward quietly
Silk Way – who? It’s a carrier that does without any PR or advertisement campaigns, thereby differentiating itself sharply from its peers. So no wonder that it keeps flying under the radar of most media, thus unnoticed by a broader public but with a clear focus on growth. Even insiders have problems distinguishing between Silk Way West Airlines and its sister company Silk Way Airlines. While the aforementioned carrier services an intercontinental network, deploying Boeing Jumbo freighters, its affiliate operates regional flights with freighter aircraft mainly of Russian origin.
It’s particularly Silk Way West Airlines that’s setting the pace, seen by figures. While in 2016, the airline carried 170,000 tons of cargo, sales skyrocketed this year, reaching 220,000 tons already by the end of August. And the high season on trade lanes between Far East and western Europa, operated via the carrier’s Baku gateway Heydar Aliyev International, has just started.
Wide range of products
"At present, our air freight business is running very strong, including transportation of pharmaceutical products, mail, high-tech equipment, electronics, perishable products and goods purchased on electronic trading platforms," Silk Way Holding Chairman Zaur Akhundov stressed at the Caspian Air Cargo Summit in Baku, attended by 250 delegates. "We are currently operating a large number of humanitarian flights, but also transport a wide range of military equipment at the request of the defense ministries of Germany, the United States, Canada, Spain, Italy, Israel and France, including NATO and other international organizations,” said Akhundov.
More pax aircraft to come
Turning to passenger transportation, he noted that Heydar Aliyev International Airport is on its way to becoming an international hub as result of growing flight connections operated by the Azeri carriers Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) and Silk Way Airlines. Baku offers good connectivity for travelers flying between the Far East and Europe but also those that commute to the neighboring CIS countries in central Asia, stated the official. Having said this, Akhundov announced new routes to Jeddah and Bangkok.
During the Caspian Summit, plans for buying four Boeing 787 Dreamliners before the turn of the year were also tabled by AZAL Chief Jahangir Asgarov. “I also want to recall that we signed a contract for the purchase of 10 modern Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which will be commissioned as early as 2018," the AZAL President emphasized.