An approximately 2,000-year-old metropolis overlooking the Bosphorus, Istanbul was once the richest and largest city in the Mediterranean region. Continually the target of conquests, the Ottomans made former Constantinople their capital. Traces of its turbulent history and the multitude of cultural influences are visible everywhere. Istanbul is still as fascinating and multifaceted as in the heyday of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. The same goes for the Turkish air freight market, mainly based in this city of 14 million inhabitants.
Lufthansa Cargo uses an MD-11F to connect Istanbul with Frankfurt four times a week. Besides freighter capacities, routed onwards via Tel Aviv, daily belly connections to Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna are also available. The station sells Sun Express and Austrian Airlines capacities as well. With a freight volume of a good 10,000 tonnes each year, the Lufthansa subsidiary is number 3 in Turkey. And is thereby holding its own in a market dominated by the home carrier.
Lufthansa Cargo has emphasised the importance of Turkey as a major airfreight market by naming one of its freighters “Merhaba Turkey” (“Hello, Turkey”). The MD-11F with the registration “D-ALCE” was given its new name at a ceremony at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on 14 October.
According to feedback from numerous Turkish clients quantity and low costs are not the only things a competitive carrier needs to offer. “Those in the mass market sometimes lose sight of quality”, knows Serpil Tastan, Head of Sales at Lufthansa Cargo in Istanbul. “This opens up new opportunities for Lufthansa Cargo.” Atatürk Airport is also struggling to cope with the ever increasing volumes.
On the other hand, Lufthansa Cargo is consistently big on quality. With the customer satisfaction index (CSI) Lufthansa Cargo evaluates the customer satisfaction regarding the five most important criteria of customer satisfaction in two survey periods per year (spring and autumn) . The maximum score is 100 points. With a CSI of 83 satisfaction points, Istanbul is a whole four satisfaction points above the company average. By comparison, the average value for competitor airlines in the last year was 67 satisfaction points. The secret to success is both simple and good: “A team that does its best for the customer every day”, says Hatipoglu, with a suitable dollop of pride.
The team is facing further challenges from, for example, the shift in core markets. While London, New York and Frankfurt were previously the top destinations for Turkish exports, demand has now shifted towards Asia, to places such as Dubai and Almaty. Frankfurt is not even in the top five anymore. This trend favours the Middle East carriers, who are benefiting from this business due to their geographical location.
However, the Lufthansa subsidiary still has advantages on the routes to North and South America. “Our competitors do not yet have such a comprehensive offering of connections to these destinations”, says Hasan Hatipoglu, General Manager Turkey at Lufthansa Cargo.
Cooperation with customers has also changed. Hatipoglu explains that there isn’t a single fixed-term contract anymore. Almost all queries are now ad hoc. Customers often get four offers from different airlines. Hatipoglu: “We have to remain competitive, which we mainly achieve through our quality and service.” But the Lufthansa subsidiary also has a winning product portfolio, with special products and express services proving particularly popular.
The Lufthansa Cargo team in Istanbul is successfully competing for its market position and will continue to do so. After all, as a connection between the east and west, Istanbul will also become increasingly important in the years ahead. A third airport is in the pipeline and studies forecast that Turkey will make the top ten list of global export countries by 2025 at the latest. Numerous industries are already moving to the Bosphorus. The automotive industry, aviation industry and pharmaceuticals and chemicals industry are locating there. The textile sector also remains strongly represented, including brands such as Hugo Boss.
“Even though the picture might seem to have changed since December 2013 given political and economic developments, Turkey will continue to do everything possible to remain an attractive location for foreign investors”, confirms Hatipoglu.
The bottom line is that Istanbul offers opportunities and challenges as an increasingly important gateway – to the east and west. For Lufthansa Cargo as well.