Although the terms of a partnership between the two carriers have not been revealed, Hong Kong Airlines’ subsidiary, Hong Kong Air Cargo, is in discussions with Turkish Airlines regarding “a number of key support-related matters, including codeshare on long-haul routes and optimal utilization of aircraft.”
In a statement about the collaboration, HNA affiliate Hong Kong Air Cargo said it is looking to streamline its business strategy to remain competitive in the face of growing competition among air carriers. Word of the latest discussions between Hong Kong Air Cargo and Turkish Airlines’ air freight subsidiary, Turkish Cargo, however, is only the most recent item in a larger developing trend of global partnerships.
As our sister publication, Air Cargo World, reported in June, Turkish Cargo has, for some time, been looking to expand its Asian operations, with Hong Kong serving as a gateway into the larger Asia-Pacific market. Under the June agreement, Turkish Cargo is partnering with Chinese cargo carrier ZTO Express, and Hong Kong-based forwarder PAL Air Ltd. to create a Hong Kong-based logistics joint venture. Under that partnership, Turkish Cargo benefits from the door-to-door delivery capabilities and Chinese market access offered by ZTO and PAL Air, while the Asian companies benefit from Turkish Cargo’s fleet of more than 300 aircraft.
Turkish Airlines has been focused on rapid growth of its cargo business, and as we noted in our first look at September cargo figures, grew its traffic in revenue tonne kilometers (RTKs) by nearly 25% year-over-year during the first nine months of 2018 – by far the highest y-o-y growth among the carriers, airports, and ground handlers we track on a monthly basis.
Partnering with Turkish Cargo would offer a large step-up in capacity for Hong Kong Air Cargo, which operates five A330-200Fs, while Turkish Cargo operates eighteen freighters, including A330-200Fs, 747-400Fs, and 777Fs. Still, Turkish also stands to gain significantly from a partnership with Hong Kong Air Cargo through that carrier’s proximity to the logistics networks of Chinese e-commerce giants JD.com and Alibaba. In June of this year, Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao, announced that it would invest US$1.5 billion in a JV logistics center at Hong Kong Air Cargo’s home airport, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).
Meanwhile, just last week, JD.com announced the launch of its own 737 freighter service in partnership with HNA Group affiliate Tianjin Air Cargo. It is still to be seen if any other HNA affiliate airline will take a role in providing freighter service on behalf of JD.com, but as the Chinese e-commerce giants set their sights to grow beyond the Asia-Pacific market, Turkish Cargo’s extensive network would certainly offer a robust opening to do so.