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Turkish Cargo: Scaling new, higher altitudes in airfreight carriage

The history of modern Turkiye begins with the foundation of the Republic on 29 October 1923, with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as its first President. Turkiye has also concurrently commemorated the 90th Anniversary of its national carrier Turkish Airlines in 2023, and the nation continues to emphasize and reinforce its future national, economic and civil aviation goals.  

Thanks to a successful and exceptional perfromance through 2023, Turkish Airlines concluded in 4th place worldwide last year with a 5.2% market share.

In the first four months of 2024, Turkish Cargo increased its global market share (FTK-Freight Tonne Kilometres) to 5.8%, attaining the highest market share in its corporate history with a further marginal increase to 6% in April 2024.

Additionally, Turkish Airways has won a slew of global awards and recognition in 2024. As Turkish Cargo, the Air Cargo brand of Turkish Airlines, was honoured with the ‘Fastest Growing International Air Cargo of the Year’ at the Air Cargo India Awards 2024 in Mumbai and among the ‘Top 5 Airlines by Absolute Cargo Growth’ at the Changi Airline Awards in Singapore. Additionally, the Airline was named the ‘Best Cargo Airline of Europe’ at the Air Cargo News Awards 2023.

Global Supply Chain conducted an exclusive interview with Ali Türk, Chief Cargo Officer, Turkish Airlines, for the Cover Story for this current edition.

Global Supply Chain (GSC): Turkish Cargo now ranks the third among global Air Cargo carriers. Explain.

Ali Türk (AT):The global economy, particularly the logistics sector, has faced numerous crises in recent years, starting with Covid-19 and continuing with the several conflicts around the world.

Despite these challenging conditions, Turkish Cargo has demonstrated superior performance. Our resilient structure, supplemented by Turkish Airlines’ 90 years of experience, have powered our steady rise during this difficult period. Today, Turkish Cargo has become one of the largest air cargo brands in the world.

However, Turkish Cargo’s success cannot be attributed to a single factor. Key internal factors include a strong flight network, dynamic capacity management, increased utilization, the proactive approach of the field sales team, and effective revenue management.

External factors also play a significant role, such as the change in market dynamics and the rise in e-commerce volume from the Far East, and the strategic advantage of our natural market and geopolitical location.

Ultimately, our success results from a combination of these opportunities and our ability to leverage and capitalize them. We are making steady progress toward our goal of becoming one of the top three air cargo brands in the world by 2028 in terms of volume, revenue, and service quality.

By 2033, we aim to lead the industry. Our current strategies, roadmaps, and plans are all aligned with this vision, our 100th year vision.

GSC: The Year 2023 also marked the launch of groundbreaking concepts for Turkish Cargo including three new Pharma products in January 2024. Briefly highlight these.

AT:We have launched three new sub-products within the scope of TK Pharma product: TK Pharma Standard, TK Pharma Extra and TK Pharma Advanced with intent to upgrade our high service quality.

In this endeavour, firstly, we have categorized pharmaceutical shipment types in terms of sensitivity and their transportation needs. Correspondingly, we have combined them with new industrial solutions to be offered and afterwards and finally we have designed our new product structures.

While TK Pharma Standard and TK Pharma Extra has been designed for time and temperature sensitive pharmaceutical and healthcare products shipped with passive packaging, TK Pharma Advanced has been developed for pharmaceuticals needs to be carried in an active or hybrid/advanced passive container.

Due to this segregation move, we have increased our capability and specialty based on pharmaceutical shipment types and requirements. We are committed to providing our business partners with more assurance, more transparency, more information flow, and better visibility thanks to such new products, whereby the quality standards are raised, and the service range is widened.

GSC: How significant is the UAE / GCC region for Turkish Cargo?

AT:The region is highly significant for Turkish Cargo. The air freight industry in Türkiye and the Middle East is poised for a promising future, and we are confident in its upward trajectory in this dynamic region.

The region has consistently experienced growth in trade volumes, driven by robust economic development and favorable business environments. This trade expansion is expected to generate increased demand for efficient and reliable transportation solutions, making air freight a vital component of the region’s logistics landscape.

GSC: How many destinations worldwide does Turkish Cargo currently operate freight only flights?

AT:We are an air cargo brand that flies to more countries than any other airline, with 105 freighter-only flights. These include both passenger and cargo destinations, we reach over 367 points worldwide. By 2033, we aim to increase our freighter-only destinations to 150.

GSC: Going forward, what opportunities and challenges do you foresee for Turkish Cargo in the region?

AT: The exponential rise of e-commerce in the region has significantly increased the demand for efficient air freight services to transport e-commerce shipments. We are well positioned to seize this opportunity and meet the evolving needs of the thriving e-commerce sector.

Türkiye’s strategic geographical location serves as a hub for international trade and logistics, gaining even greater significance as the center of international trade and economy shifts from west to east.

In this regard, Turkish Cargo’s new hub, SMARTIST, located in Istanbul and equipped with state-of-the-art systems, plays a crucial role as a transit hub connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, which are important trade connection points.

With an extensive global network linking over 360 destinations worldwide, including major cities and emerging markets, Turkish Cargo is a key facilitator of cross-border trade and a supporter of international supply chains.

Turkish Cargo is interconnecting the two ends of the world in a single day. Thanks to its worldwide flight network, Turkish Cargo reaches Los Angeles, the westernmost destination in the USA, in approximately 14 hours; and Tokyo, the easternmost destination in Asia, in about 13 hours.

Turkish Cargo has been increasing the frequency of flights to important production centers and markets worldwide. Leveraging hub advantage and network leadership, the carrier has reached a substantial competitive edge worldwide to provide its customers with wide access and connection opportunities.

GSC: What are your short- and long-term expansion plans & vision for Turkish Cargo?

AT:Since August 2023, we have held the third position in the global air cargo industry. However, our vision extends far beyond. As Turkish Cargo, we aim to lead the industry by 2033.

We plan to increase the share of high-value special cargo in our total revenues to 55% and boost our total cargo carried to over 3.9 million tons in 9 years. Additionally, we will create a cargo ecosystem through partnerships, e-commerce, and technology investments, targeting a total revenue of US$9.6 billion.

Aligned with these ambitions, we continue to invest in infrastructure as outlined in our strategic plans published in 2023. A key component of this investment is the completion of SMARTIST 2.0, our future mega hub.

When complete, our cargo handling capacity will increase from 2.2 million tons to 4.5 million tons, with 2,5 million tons dedicated to special cargo products and services. These developments will boost operational efficiency, thereby enabling us to deliver top-quality services to our business partners and propel us to the top of the industry.

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