Turkish Airlines, like almost every other airline in the world, swung to a loss in the horrendous second quarter, reporting a loss of $327m compared with a $26m profit in 2019. But the carrier did report one very bright spot: Cargo.
The money Turkish made from cargo, though, was incredible. The airline reported it made $747m in cargo revenue in the quarter, up more than 90% from last year. In fact, cargo revenue was more than 80% of the airline’s total revenues in the quarter. Passenger revenue was only $115m in the quarter, compared with $2.7b in 2019. Turkish expects cargo to be a large part of its business for the remainder of this year, and yields could remain high if the price of fuel stays low.
Turkish was hammered in the second quarter by the country’s suspension of air travel from late March to early June. Passenger capacity fell by 96% in the second quarter. For the full year, Turkish expects passenger volumes to be down 60%, year-over-year.
While passenger operations were mostly shut down, it operated a handful of charter and repatriation flights, and it converted 30 widebody passenger aircraft to temporarily serve as freighters. Turkish operates a vast international network, giving its new converted aircraft and its fleet of dedicated freighters incredible reach throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
Airlines like United have seen cargo help stanch the flow of red ink in the horrendous second quarter (even regional Mesa sees the tremendous potential in freight). Some, like Asiana and Korean, even turned profits thanks to freight. With passenger volumes not expected to recover until 2024 (and with the explosive growth of e-commerce during quarantines and the expected boom from vaccine and other medical shipments), freight could just be the airline industry’s shining star.