In the coming months, Baku-based Silk Way West Airlines could make some noise, and begin to surface as a major player in scheduled cargo operations as its fleet grows, and its network expands beyond the niche it carved out in the Caspian region. In just two months SWW has taken delivery of two 747-400Fs from Boeing Capital (30804, 32571, ex-Cathay Pacific) and an additional 747-8F production freighter (62708), with another -8F slated for delivery during the first half of 2017.
What exactly might SWW have in store for these freighters? One of the -400Fs (32571) has already been placed on ACMI-lease with Russia-based startup, Sky Gates Airlines. At least some of the previous and future aircraft deliveries meanwhile, will support SWW’s own network expansion – to expand connections between the Caspian region and Europe, and then onward to the Americas.
A report today from ch-Aviation states that the airline has made Amsterdam its official base in Western Europe. This comes as no surprise, as an earlier block space agreement with MAB Kargo familiarized the carrier with the airport. Beginning in March 2016, the two carriers began sharing space on flights between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur (flights which originated in Baku). Silk Way West CEO, Kamran Gasimov tells Cargo Facts, “As they, MAB Kargo, experienced a new transformation in their business, we found an opportunity to contribute by stepping into their historical routes in order to help them sustain their market presence.” How big Silk Way’s base at Amsterdam will be remains to be seen, but it is well-positioned between Baku and destinations on the US east coast.
Shifting from Europe to the United States, last year’s Open Skies agreement between the US and Azerbaijan, along with a recent exemption from the US Department of Transportation paves the way for Silk Way Airlines and its subsidiaries Silk Way West and SW Italia to launch service to new destinations in the US. SWW has been flying to the New York (JFK) for nearly two years, and following the exemption was able to launch twice-weekly flights between Chicago and Baku. Gasimov says Chicago is part of Silk Way West’s strategy of “establishing top tier scheduled service from our two US gateways, while meeting the market demand for our global destinations.” Future destinations are also in the cards. Gasimov says, “if a region of the US has traffic to one of our destination areas and isn’t currently being served, or there is an opportunity to add capacity, we would definitely want to explore that as an additional gateway.” That is not to say Silk Way plans to be everywhere: “Our goal is not so much to be everywhere in the world, but rather to answer the demands of the market while providing dependable first class service to our customers.”