Turkish Cargo’s operations made a significant contribution to the company’s overall revenue and profit last year and in the Far East region, the team recorded a remarkable 1 billion in revenue..
The flag carrier is certainly in the top 5 combination airlines that are thriving with cargo, operating 21 online stations and connecting services via the Istanbul air hub. Data released by IATA saw Turkish achieve the biggest growth ratio amongst the top 25 air cargo carriers with 5.7 percent market share in June 2021, moving from sixth to third place for the month versus last year.
In an interview, Payload Asia listens to Tarik Parlak, cargo sales vice president for Far East at Turkish Cargo, as he walks us through his new role, key learnings, as well as the challenges and opportunities of operating in a new region.
Can you tell us more about Turkish Cargo’s operations in the Far East? What would you say would be unique in this market, particularly Asia Pacific?
In the far east, we altered our organizational structure in the region this year in order to ensure a smooth and steady work process. Subregion directors are appointed to China & Central Asia, North-East Asia, and South East Asia respectively to manage the communication across their countries instead of directly reporting to the Regional Office. Experienced operation managers are assigned to the major stations like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong to ensure operation consistency. Benefitting from the strong export demand, we delivered special cargo by our fruitful experience from food and aid materials to medicine, masks, and medical equipment worldwide, maintaining business relentlessly during this pandemic period, in order not to disrupt the global pharmaceutical supply chain.
We knew that an efficient, quality service along with a high operation capability could lead to customer satisfaction. Our on-going digitalization of our systems, Turkish Cargo Chatbot (Cargy) was launched early this year, offering customers an easy way to get instant shipment details 24/7, including AWB status, tariff, station capability through the exclusive WhatsApp account.
You were previously handling western and southern Europe as VP for cargo sales, and prior to that you were overseeing the Africa region. What are the key learnings and best practices that you will be bringing to your new team, and what are your expectations?
I have over 15-years logistics experience involving sales, marketing, business development, logistics and supply chain related areas. I joined Turkish Airlines in 2010, stayed in Africa as the Cargo Director and later was appointed to Germany for 7 years with the post of Cargo Vice President for Western and Southern Europe Region. It is absolutely a new challenge for me, as this Region is totally different from the areas I participated in before, especially on the culture, business model, and customer relationship. I believe there are a lot of business opportunities in Asia Pacific as it is the biggest export region in the world with China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.
We have 21 online stations now in our region, providing air cargo services via our strategic location hub Istanbul to connect the world. Although the overall market environment was unstable last year, thanks to all the hard work from our colleagues, our region recorded a remarkable revenue of 1 billion in 2020.
Passenger and travel demand have slowly picked up in the US and Europe bringing extra belly cargo space. What’s the situation like in Asia Pacific? How are rates and capacity looking? What would be the right strategy for cargo operators given the current volatile situation?
There is a noticeable increase in air freight demand towards the end of 2020 following the unusual condition throughout last year. Turkish Cargo’s operations are continuing at full capacity with freighters and made a significant contribution to the company’s overall revenue and profit compared to those of the previous year. We can see a recovery and positive sign on the Asia Pacific’s export cargo demand, especially on special cargo like perishable shipment, valuable and vulnerable commodities. Comparing the half-year record of the 2021 year to year, Turkish Cargo records a 20% growth on the market share according to WACD Airlines Ranking.
Can you describe to us the transition of moving from Frankfurt to Hong Kong, particularly during a pandemic? What would be your advice to those who want to pursue a career in cargo sales?
There is a saying, you are what you think. If you think big and dream big, the things you dare to desire would further come to you. In contrast, your mindset will bound your view. Since the time I know my transition from Frankfurt to Hong Kong, I was well prepared to understand more about the Region and think what I can do to improve more and more. Thanks to my colleagues who shared all the information that I needed to know when I was still a newcomer and opened the discussion for better knowing each other. Being in cargo sales is definitely not necessary to have a very fruitful experience, instead you have to learn how to adapt and react in an ever-changing environment quickly as you know, the cargo market is dependent on too many uncontrollable issues like oil prices, economy, environment, currency, job vacancy, etc.
What would be Turkish Cargo’s upcoming plans in the region? Any new routes or services that you will be launching soon, particularly as we head into peak season?
With its successful performance in June, Turkish Cargo managed to reach its goal of becoming one of the top three air cargo brands in the world. According to data released by IATA (International Air Transport Association), flag carrier air cargo brand, after passing biggest brands from Americas, Europe and Far East, managed to rise to third place in June 2021, from being the sixth place in the same period of previous year.
SMARTIST, the new cargo terminal is the biggest project we are processing in Istanbul now and we target to move all operations over to this new facility by spring. It is built to reach 4m tonnes of annual capacity when all phases are completed. Inside the SMARTIST, we also aim to use modern technology such as automated storage systems, 3D ULD planning and unmanned ground vehicles and integrate them fully into warehouse management systems and work processes. By moving into SMARTIST we will complete our transition to a single hub system, and we can provide our customers shorter connection times and better service quality.
We also created the online booking system TKGO for our customers, all forwarders can be able to perform online bookings, tracking transactions and claim cases. In our region, over 70% of the cargo reservation is directly done by this platform, customers could be able to perform their transactions online 24/7 without any intermediaries. For the business side, we are striving to increase our market presence in the region and always respond to the market’s air freight needs. In April, we had expansions for several stations in Southeast Asia, including aircraft upgrade to wide body B777 in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur; adding extra capacity by passenger-cargo flight to Vietnam, Japan and Korea.