The cargo division of the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) has ended its services at the Atatürk Airport and switched to its massive logistics center at Istanbul Airport, marking the end of an era at its first home.
Turkish Cargo will now be carrying out its freight operations from Istanbul Airport, approximately 40 minutes north of Atatürk, its parent company said in a statement on Monday.
The nearly $12 billion (TL 163 billion) gleaming glass-and-steel structure along the Black Sea coast was thrown open in late October 2018, before it fully took over operations from the Atatürk Airport the following April as the new hub for Turkish Airlines.
Following the massive switch, Atatürk Airport remained a cargo hub and transitioned to other uses such as training activities and aviation fairs, while some parts are to be transformed into a public park.
Atatürk Airport had been home to the Turkish Cargo since its establishment in 1933 and also served as an important hub for other freighters, including MNG Airlines and ULS Airlines Cargo.
Dozens of trucks covered a total distance of nearly 16,000 kilometers (9,942 miles) with round trips to transport some 4,125 pieces of equipment of the Turkish Cargo from its base at Atatürk to Istanbul Airport in an operation that lasted 72 hours.
The move is reminiscent of the Turkish Airlines’ mammoth switch in April 2019. More than 1,000 trucks and vehicles had ferried around 12,000 pieces of equipment weighing over 47,000 tons, from an aircraft-towing apparatus weighing 44 tons to extremely sensitive materials, across Istanbul to the giant airport.
With the relocation, Turkish Cargo has combined all of its air cargo transportation activities at the massive SmartIST complex at Istanbul Airport. The complex consists of a closed area of 340,000 square meters (3 million square feet) and has an annual capacity of 4 million tons.
The freighter performed its last flight from Atatürk Airport to Khartoum late Monday. The plane landed at Istanbul Airport on its return flight to Turkey.
THY's deputy general manager in charge of cargo, Turhan Özen, said they have started operating at SmartIST at full capacity.
“Over the past three years, we have conducted a very serious operation at both of our hubs (centers). We used the capacity of our cargo planes at Atatürk Airport and our passenger planes and PaxFre (cargo flight carried out without passengers by passenger plane) at Istanbul Airport,” said Özen.
“We operated nearly 30,000 flights, including 23,000 with our cargo planes and 6,000 as PaxFre and carried more than 4 million tons of cargo, 2.5 million tons of which was from Atatürk Airport and 1.8 million from Istanbul Airport.”
Now, Özen said they are combining their air cargo activities under one roof at Istanbul Airport. “As Turkish Cargo, we are more ready for the future than ever before with our new home SmartIST, where all processes are equipped with autonomous and robotic systems.”
Dubbed one of the fastest-growing air cargo brands, Turkish Cargo offers services to 132 countries and also benefits from the wide network of Turkish Airlines.
It boosted its global market share to 5.4% and transported one out of every 20 air cargo carried throughout the world, according to International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) data announced for September 2021.
Turkish Cargo aims to be one of the top three global air cargo brands by 2023, marking the centennial of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.