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An Interview with Turhan Özen - Chief Cargo Officer at Turkish Airlines

“We have benefited from e-commerce thanks to the services we offer and our wide flight network”

Serving 132 countries worldwide, Turkish Cargo has been active in the air cargo transport market since 1933. In 2021 the company saw a year-on-year increase of 48% in cargo revenues, reaching 4 billion $, as well as a 26% increase in cargo volumes, reaching 1.9 million t. We took the opportunity to talk to Chief Cargo Officer, Turhan Özen, about Turkish’s “smart” central hub, their talkative Chatbot and the recent e-commerce boom.

“When looking at the developments over the years, Turkish Cargo’s business volume has been constantly expanding. Flying to more countries than any other airline in the world, we hope Turkish Cargo’s partnership with cargo-partner will continue to flourish for the years to come.”


CCO Turhan Özen on the cooperation between Turkish Cargo and cargo-partner

To say Turkish Cargo is one of the fastest growing air cargo companies in the world is an understatement: According to IATA statistics, Turkish Cargo increased its global market share to over 5 percent in 2021 and transported 1 out of every 20 air cargo shipments carried throughout the world. Having been recognized as the fastest growing and developing air cargo brand in the world, Turkish Cargo aims to become one of the top 3 air cargo brands in 2025.


Istanbul’s new airport, one of the busiest in the world, is a key part of your growth strategy. The cargo area and the terminals are extensive and continue to grow. What are you aiming for in terms of cargo turnaround in the final stage?

Turhan Özen: As of February 2022, Turkish Cargo has started operations at its Istanbul Airport hub, called “SMARTIST”. This state-of the-art facility features revamped business processes, automated storage systems, and a fully integrated warehouse management system. SMARTIST, one of the world’s largest cargo facilities by capacity, is poised to become one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in terms of innovation and technological capabilities. Conceived as a high-end, customer oriented and expandable facility, SMARTIST will provide an annual capacity of 4 million tons and a total area of 340,000 m² in its final stage.

How has SMARTIST proven itself so far?

It facilitates the management of business processes in a faster, more efficient and traceable way via the work order optimization system in which all processes are integrated. As a result, the facility will remain one of the main factors in our journey toward achieving our strategic goals, with technology-oriented projects to be commissioned in 2023 and the following years as well.

At the height of the numerous lockdowns, a number of passenger carriers returned certain routes to their schedules as “freight only” – with rather daring solutions, such as removing rows of seats from their passenger cabins. How did you perceive these efforts? 

Turkish Cargo converted passenger aircraft to freight only so as to be able to carry cargo, and assumed a critical role for the purpose of maintaining the supply chain under the challenging conditions of the pandemic.
Thanks to our dynamic structure, we were able to operate more than 6,500 PAX-freighter flights and we contributed to the delivery of vaccines and health equipment worldwide during this period.

“SMARTIST” is one of the world’s largest cargo facilities:

While the world was in lockdown, there was an e-commerce boom: Many consumers were ordering goods online like crazy, further reducing available air cargo capacities. How did this development affect Turkish Cargo?

Having undergone changes following the pandemic, the market conditions further increased the high demand for e-commerce deliveries in air cargo. We, as Turkish Cargo, transported e-commerce shipments in excess of 5.7 million boxes during the first half of 2022. We have benefited from e-commerce thanks to the services we offer and our wide flight network.

The ever-growing online shopping industry drives us to develop innovative solutions, and we continue to make significant progress in the field of global express deliveries. We offer effective solutions to our customers and business partners thanks to product and service differentiation, short cargo acceptance periods, quick ramp transfers and flexible connections.

To accommodate the future e-commerce industry, Turkish Cargo set up a partnership with the express/courier companies ZTO Express and PAL Air. Within this framework, we have been enhancing our cross-border business by offering door-to-door logistics solutions: from collection and distribution to freight transportation, cross-docking, and final mile delivery. This partnership brings us one step closer to becoming a key player in the e-commerce market.

Offering a Wide Range of Air Cargo Services

cargo-partner started as an airfreight specialist at Vienna Airport in 1983. Since its beginnings, the company has not only grown considerably, but also forged many lasting partnerships which have significantly contributed to the international logistics provider’s success. Thanks to this, cargo-partner's customers benefit from a seamless network with the highest safety and quality standards.


Turkish Cargo and cargo-partner are linked by a close and long-standing partnership. How do you see the cooperation between the two companies – and how does working with a medium-sized logistics provider like us differ from working with the “giants” of the industry? 

Turkish Cargo’s partnership with cargo-partner started years ago as a local collaboration in Austria. Following positive developments locally, we expanded our cooperation to the regional level in 2019, and finally to the global level in 2021. When looking at the developments over the years, Turkish Cargo’s business volume has been constantly expanding. Flying to more countries than any other airline in the world, we hope Turkish Cargo’s partnership with cargo-partner will continue to flourish for the years to come.

The passenger flight sector has undergone an immense transformation in the past decade: flight status updates in real time, modern online booking systems, self-check-ins and the elimination of paper tickets and related processes. On the other hand, the airfreight industry is said to lag behind when it comes to digitalization, often still relying on printed air waybills and the like. What’s your assessment, and what can the industry do to improve?

Keeping pace with rapid developments in the information and communication technologies and making effective use of such developments is important for all industries, including the air cargo sector. Being an innovative air cargo brand, Turkish Cargo has been investing in technology and has accordingly attached great importance to digitalization by prioritizing customer satisfaction, quality and productivity. 
Turkish Cargo has been taking well-received steps in the wake of digitalization. One of these steps is our WhatsApp Chatbot “Cargy”, which recently turned two years old. It allows customers to find out their AWB status and make fast and easy schedule inquiries through WhatsApp. Thanks to this service, Turkish Cargo’s customers can obtain details about arrivals on a 24/7 basis directly on their phones.

Speaking of trends and challenges in airfreight – we talked about the current challenges a bit earlier. But what will they be tomorrow? And, looking further into the future, where do you see airfreight and Turkish Cargo? 

As Turkish Cargo, we believe that keeping up with the times and using new technologies are of great importance in order to meet customer expectations in the best way possible and to strengthen our service delivery standards. Having one of the most modern hubs in the world, we aim to solidify the leadership at our flight network and also to raise the bar to the highest level during our operational excellence journey. Thanks to the investments we have made in logistics, storage, automation and smart system technologies, Turkish Cargo follows a strategic road map positioning us among the leading companies that develop trailblazer projects. 

With 30 years of expertise in special cargo transportation, we internalize a perfectionist service concept to surpass expectations by providing our customers with optimal solutions in terms of both product diversification and service quality. 

About cargo-partner in Turkey

cargo-partner has been represented in Turkey since 2018 and currently operates 9 offices with 119 employees in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Izmir, Gaziantep and Mersin. Our experienced teams provide a comprehensive range of air, sea and road transport services, including door-to-door delivery to and from anywhere in the country. 
In seafreight, we offer direct services to and from all major ports in Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Arabian Gulf, making use of Turkey as one of the most important gateways for CIS countries. In airfreight, we are a member of IATA and operate from all major international airports in the country, offering consolidations services, full and part charters, express and on-board-courier solutions as well as hanging garments and dangerous goods handling. Road transport is provided by our offices in Istanbul, Izmir and Mersin, with our groupage hub located in Istanbul. Our services include pickup and distribution throughout the entire country as well as LTL, FTL, temperature-controlled transport, oversized shipments as well as multimodal solutions.