On the eve of launching the daily services from Delhi and Mumbai to Istanbul, Dr Kotil had said that there had been no reduction in the carrierÃ¢â‚¬™s growth plans. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If we stop growing, we are dead. Every year if we grow about 25 per cent in revenue and 15 per cent in passengers, we will be alive,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said, adding, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we know what we are doing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Th at the management of the carrier has been doing the right things is becoming apparent if the passenger figures are any criteria. It is not that cargo has lagged behind. In the first two months of this year, cargo-mail increased 3.4 per cent to 28,839 tonnes.
It is no wonder that Atilla Lise, Senior Vice-President, Turkish Airlines Cargo, bubbled with enthusiasm when talking about the Indian market. Speaking on the sidelines of an event organised to honour TurkishÃ¢â‚¬™s top air cargo agents in India, Lise gave the impression that his management had understood that India possessed the potential to become a top-grosser in the years to come; hence, the need to develop the market.
Almost rubbishing the downturn in the global economy and its effects on developed countries, Lise pointed out that while Ã¢â‚¬Å“the economic recession is aff ecting almost each and every airline, Turkish Airlines Cargo has not been impacted to that extent.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Th e magic of maintaining growth in the depressed atmosphere was simple: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are still offering the right capacityand the right frequency to the market.
As we do not have over-capacity, we do not need to cut capacity for the moment. If you look at our cargo traffic, we are at the right stage and doing very well. We managed eight per cent growth in volume and 24 per cent growth in revenue in our cargo segment due to high yield cargo in2008,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Lise.
Keen on India
As for the development of new markets, Lise was forthright: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are increasing our frequency and also exploring newer destinations.Ã¢â‚¬Â Citing the case of India, he pointed out: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were operating four flights per week to Delhi and three a week to Mumbai in 2008. At present, we have daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi. But, if you look at our competitors they are offering a capacity which is more than the marketÃ¢â‚¬™s requirement. That is why they are having difficulties now.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The reason for THYÃ¢â‚¬™s success, he emphasised: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are at the right place at the right time.Ã¢â‚¬Â Not content with the loads from Mumbai and Delhi, Turkish Cargo has made arrangements with bonded carriers to bring in goods from other parts of India. Ã¢â‚¬Å“From India, we carry textiles, leather products,pharmaceuticals, etc.,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Aware that South Indian destinations like Hyderabad and Bengaluru provided opportunities for cargo growth, Lise said that the airline through its GSA had arrangements with certain carriers. In addition, Turkish was Ã¢â‚¬Å“working very closely with a couple of Indian carriers to set up special prorated agreements which will be in place very shortlyÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Dwelling at length on the Indian operations, Lise said that Ã¢â‚¬Å“though the economic condition is not so good, we have increased our flights. Also we have changed our aircraft from A310 to A330. Our flight frequency has increased more than two-anda- half times. With support from our GSA, Accent Air in India, and their dedication, we have been able to achieve this.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Given the present upbeat scenario as far as Turkish Cargo is concerned, Lise mentioned that Ã¢â‚¬Å“we are thinking about starting freighter services from Mumbai possibly in the third or fourth quarter of this year Ã¢â‚¬“ provided the situation is right.Ã¢â‚¬Â
If that happens, it will enhance the current twice a week freighter service from New Delhi to Istanbul and it would also increase the loads from the present bellyhold and freighter capacity, which is 300 tonnes per week. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Th e load factor on an average is 90 per cent,Ã¢â‚¬Â Lise said.
TurkishÃ¢â‚¬™s freighters come via Almaty to India. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a lot of incoming load to Almaty from Central Europe and other parts of the world,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Lise. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Unfortunately there is not much load to India. Therefore, we are flying to New Delhi via Almaty in order to support the load factor and revenue to India on freighters.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He was candid when he said that in comparison to India, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we get much better pricing from Central Europe to AlmatyÃ¢â‚¬Â. India, he pointed out, Ã¢â‚¬Å“is a very challenging country on pricing especially on inbound as there is somuch of capacity available.Ã¢â‚¬Â Despite this, he said, Turkish was keen toexplore more opportunities in thecountry.
IstanbulÃ¢â‚¬™s hub potential
Other than Indian destinations on Turkish CargoÃ¢â‚¬™s radar, Lise said that growth in volumes/revenue would come once the full potential of Istanbul as a hub is recognised.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As far as cargo is concerned we have an advantage over passenger. IstanbulÃ¢â‚¬™s position is unique. Located between Asia and Europe, between Europe and the Middle East, between Europe and North Africa, between CIS countries and North Africa or the Middle East; Turkey is in the centre.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The air cargo traffic flow is mostly from the Far East to the US, Europe or within Europe and all of this traffic circulation intercepts with Turkey. As for Turkish Airlines cargo traffic figures, Ã¢â‚¬Å“more than 45 per cent of the traffic is transiting through Turkey. The rest 55 per cent of air cargo traffic comprises 25 per cent export and 30 per cent import.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The reason why we are managing this 45 per cent is simply because Istanbul is en route for most of the cargo,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Lise quickly pointing out that Ã¢â‚¬Å“most of the cargo that we get is cleared on the same day or makes its way out within three-four hours at the mostÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Istanbul airport is within four to five hours of more than 70 destinations in Europe, CIS countries, Middle East and North Africa. In addition, TurkishÃ¢â‚¬™s fleet structure gives the carrier the muscle to move: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have narrow bodies and wide bodies of which the number of narrow bodies is larger than the wide bodies. The reason behind this is the four-hour flying distance within which we are able to serve a wide number of destinations. Instead of offering one big aircraft, we offer smaller aircraft more densely. This gives us so much transit capacity,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Lise.
Operating presently to 115 international and 35 domestic destinations, Lise said that simply means Ã¢â‚¬Å“we have a very good capability. Take Eastern Europe, for example. Terming it Ã¢â‚¬Å“a strange market where there are several small cities within a limited area, Turkish Airlines serves all of these destinations daily. It means we are not only carrying passengers but also cargo.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He was quick to point out that the carrier was nimble enough to boost cargo carrying capacity by inducting one of its four A310 freighters whenever and wherever the need arose. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are seven big European countries which have cargo potential and Turkish Cargo has scheduled freighter services to those countries,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Currently Turkish Cargo has 20 scheduled freighter destinations including Almaty, Tblisi, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Algiers, and Casablanca.
Since January this year, Turkish Airlines has become a member of Cargo 2000. The membership, said Lise would certainly Ã¢â‚¬Å“lead to improvement of the quality of air cargo service by minimizing irregularities, enable better time management during transportation cycle and will further enhance sustainable and reliable air cargo services throughout the Turkish Airlines networkÃ¢â‚¬Â.
However, for the moment, the cargo chief said, it was still early days and Turkish Cargo was fulfilling many of the requirements for Cargo 2000 and thus unable to provide any indicative figures about how much of a help the membership has been.