After nearly a decade since the initial filing, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted Silk Way Airlines, and its subsidiaries, permission to operate scheduled freighter flights to and from the US with a revised foreign air carrier permit. This new market-access is likely to fuel growth for the Azerbaijan-based carrier, which has been thirsty for expansion in the US market since 2007, when it first applied for a foreign air carrier permit.
Given how long it has taken for a decision to be reached, Silk Way’s entrance into the US market has unsurprisingly, been a long and drawn out bureaucratic process. The first major breakthrough came in November 2014 when the DOT issued an initial permit valid for routes between New York (JFK), and Silk Way’s hub in Baku with weekly scheduled 747-8F flights. Following objections from the National Airlines and Kalitta Air, further rights were temporarily postponed. This began to change however, after the FAA elevated Silk Way to Category 1 status in 2015 which ultimately paved the way for the US/Azerbaijan open skies agreement that was ratified in April 2016.
Silk Way’s new permit is valid for two years, during which the carrier plans to increase frequencies to JFK, and begin serving Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
The DOT decision came shortly after Silk Way West Airlines took delivery of its fourth 747-8F (62708) from Boeing. The carrier now operates a six-unit freighter fleet made up of four 747-8Fs and two 747-400Fs. It also has another 747-8F on firm order, and will soon put into service two more 747-400Fs (30804 and 32751, both ex-Cathay) recently acquired on lease from Boeing Capital [FATs 003431 and 3426].
At least one of the newly acquired 747-400Fs (32751) will not be added to Silk Way West’s fleet for its own use. Instead SWW will lease the aircraft to Russia-based startup, Sky Gates Airlines, which since June, had said it would lease a 747-400F from an undisclosed source. Earlier this year Sky Gates’ general director, Pyotr Morozov told Russian Aviation Insider that its first aircraft would fly in September, and that an additional aircraft would join its fleet in 2017. Morozov also said that Sky Gates would operate both domestic and international flights with a particular focus on destinations in Southeast Asia.
Interested in learning more about growing and emerging cargo airlines like Silk Way? We encourage you to join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 10 – 12 October, where senior executives from major carriers will speak on a panel dedicated to this topic. To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.