Or to put it in the words of Turhan Özen, Turkish Airlines’ Head of Cargo: “Only those cargo airlines will be successful, that react fast to changing circumstances and adapt to new situations with utmost flexibility.” This was the core message he delivered to the attendees of the recently held Frankfurt Air Cargo Days, organized by the FRA Air Cargo Community. The fact that Mr. Özen is convinced that these attributes fully apply to Turkish Cargo, goes without saying.
The executive illustrated that this statement is not just sweet talk to delight audiences at conferences or meetings but accurately reflects the carrier’s reaction to the pandemic in 2020 and
2021. In almost no time, Turkish converted passenger aircraft to ‘preighters’ by taking out seats and using the passenger cabins to transport hygienic material such as face masks, disinfecting
agents, disposable gloves, and other goods. “In total, we converted 100 widebody aircraft to ‘preighters’”, he says. This is more or less equivalent to the capacity of 25 full
Efficient ground structure backs Turkish Cargo’s growth
This operational and technical agility went hand in hand with infrastructural enhancements. A turning point was the opening of the carrier’s new mega cargo hub “SMARTIST” at the new Istanbul Airport in February 2022. The step followed the transfer of passenger flights from Atatürk Airport to the new gateway near the Black Sea in 2019.
According to Mr. Özen, SMARTIST’s annual capacity will reach 4 million tons once all its phases are completed. The building incorporates smart technologies including augmented reality and automatic storage systems, implemented and continuously maintained by German specialist, Lödige Industries GmbH.
The facility is also equipped with robotic process automation and unmanned ground vehicles, which will speed up cargo throughput or temporary storage of goods.
In his Frankfurt statement, the executive explained that Turkish Cargo’s growth strategy is based on three pillars: Its fleet expansion, coupled with the network enlargement, and backed by the provision of adequate ground infrastructure. This three-pronged approach will pave the way for the freight carrier “to become the world’s best cargo airline by revenue and in product quality come 2025,” the Chief Cargo Officer announced. “We aim to becoming the leader in network coverage and connectivity, in technology and operational excellence, in the fields of special cargo and premium products.” He went on to say: “An additional key success factor is our corporate culture which puts an emphasis on quality, innovation, and reliability.” He denied any plans of becoming a member of an alliance or collaborating closely with another cargo carrier. The exception is the pact with Chinese YTO Cargo Airlines aimed at building a logistics ecosystem.
The pact with YTO
Under the agreement, signed on 28JUL22, YTO will operate four weekly flights between Xi’an and Tashkent, with Turkish Cargo utilizing the entire capacity of the freighter aircraft. Pursuant to the treaty, shipments departing from China and destined for Turkey, Europe, or beyond, are transiting in Tashkent and being loaded on board Turkish Airlines’ Tashkent-Istanbul flights within the same day. Once the goods have arrived at the SMARTIST freight hub at İstanbul Airport, ongoing cargo shipments will be flown to their final consignees on board Turkish Airlines’ own fleet across the carrier’s large international network.
Incidentally, Istanbul is bidding for the 2032 Summer Olympics alongside Mumbai, Jakarta, Doha, and a small Finnish town in the Arctic Circle. If the Turkish metropolis wins the bid following several previously unsuccessful attempts, the motto in the arenas on the Bosporus will be higher, faster, further - in line with the unofficial guiding motives of Turkish Cargo.
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