Turkish Cargo launches cargo ops from Istanbul New Airport

Turkish Cargo carried out its first air domestic and international cargo operations aboard passenger aircraft from Istanbul New Airport (ISL) to Ankara (ESB) and Ercan International Airport (ECN), respectively, on Feb. 4, according to flight tracking software and a statement from the carrier. The launch marks the beginning of the carrier’s move into its future hub at the airport.

The domestic ISL-ESB flight was operated using an A321 aircraft, while the international flight to ECN in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was carried out with a 737-800 aircraft.

While its “SmartIST” cargo hub at ISL is still under construction, Turkish Cargo will conduct its belly hold operations at ISL, but will continue its freighter services from Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST). The carrier will use a 30 km corridor for cargo transit between the airports. Upon completion of its terminal construction at ISL in early 2020, Turkish Cargo will transition all its operations to the new airport, as IST is slated for closure.

ISL’s cargo terminal has an initial capacity of 2.5 million tonnes that will scale up to 6 million tonnes once all four phases of construction are completed. Turkish Cargo’s operations at ISL are launching with 2 million tonnes of capacity, which will increase to 4 million tonnes once the construction of its SmartIST facilities are complete.

Turkish Airlines’ SmartIST cargo hub at ISL will ultimately have 300,000 square meters of warehouse space equipped with an automated storage system managed by artificial intelligence systems, as well as zones for specialized cargo services, such as live animals, express and e-commerce.

At Cargo Facts EMEA 2019, hosted by our sister publication, Cargo Facts, Turkish Cargo’s chief officer of cargo Turhan Özen discussed the carrier’s development plans at ISL.  Özen said that Turkish Airlines recently hired close to 500 new staff and is investing in training them to support efficient cargo operations in preparation of the new terminal’s operations.

Given the scale of cargo facilities at the airport and Turkish Cargo’s continued double-digit growth, ISL will be an airport to watch in the next few years as it is likely to attract an increasing portion of the regional airfreight market.