Earlier today at its global hub in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines celebrated the delivery of the first of two 777Fs (60403) it has on order with Boeing. The 777F arrived in Turkey last week after being ferried from Everett’s Paine Field, and was immediately placed into service to Turkish’s subcarrier, Turkish Cargo, in support of its rapidly growing air cargo operations.
Even before the air cargo market rebounded this year, Turkish has long been planning to expand its freighter operations, but the growth seems to have bested even its own expectations, prompting the carrier to add even more. Midway through the year, the carrier’s chief cargo officer, Turhan Ozen, estimated Turkish Cargo’s freighter fleet would grow to fifteen units by the end of December 2017. But after the recent addition of three ACMI-leased 747-400Fs − two operated by Kalitta, and a third operated by Atlas Air − Turkish Cargo’s freighter count now stands at sixteen. Besides the 777F and the 747-400Fs, Turkish Cargo operates nine A330-200Fs, and ACMI-leases three A310-300Fs from ULS Airlines Cargo. The additional freighters enabled Turkish Cargo to add 18 new destinations to its schedule this year.
For some time now, Turkish Cargo has sustained high double-digit growth rates each month, on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date through October, the carrier’s cargo handle was up 26.3% y-o-y, to 917,397 tonnes. Incorporating November traffic figures, which have not yet been officially released, İlker Aycı, chairman of the board and the executive committee with Turkish Airlines, said YTD cargo traffic is up 29%, as total tonnage surpassed one million tonnes.
This rapid growth would soon test the limits of the carrier’s main cargo hub at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul if it were not for a new airport that is expected to open in phases beginning next year. Ataturk airport has 1.2 million tonnes of air cargo capacity, and Turkish Cargo estimates that it is using upwards of 75% of the available space. The new airport boasts 1.4 million square meters of space designated for cargo operations, and will commence operations with 2.5 million tonnes of capacity, which will ultimately be scaled up to around 5.5 million tonnes.
Below is a video developed by Turkish Airlines, welcoming the new 777F: