Increased capacity and facilities at the new Istanbul Airport, paired with the city's location, have encouraged several global logistics players and cargo airlines to use it as a regional hub.
Istanbul Airport went into full operation in April 2019, after a soft opening in the fall of 2018. Turkey’s latest and largest air travel hub is set to handle more than 90 million passengers annually, with its new facilities poised to make the airport a key logistics hub for global cargo and shipping companies.
In the coming years, Turkey’s landmark transportation facility will continue to expand through four stages of construction, which will make it one of the world’s largest airports with projected passenger capacity of 200 million per year. It could handle 5.5 million tons of air cargo a year, too. The massive facility has caught the attention of international shipping companies such as UPS, DHL, and FedEx, which have all submitted bids to lease areas of Istanbul Airport to support their global cargo operations. Claus Lassen, the managing director of DHL Express Turkey, said the company was preparing to establish a 42,000-sqm logistics center at the airport to serve as the DHL regional hub. “The new airport is key for us, logistics-wise,” Lassen told TBY in an interview. “From an investment point of view, for DHL the airport will start the largest project we have ever had in the country. We think it has the right location for our business as a hub and is a way for us to grow new trade links.” Lassen said DHL has been operating in Turkey since 1981, and the country’s geographical location, set between London and Lahore and Mecca and Moscow, gives it a significant edge in the international shipping sector, with transit routes between Europe, Africa, and Asia. About 60 countries can be reached within a three-hour flight from Istanbul, Lassen said, noting that the city would become a major sub-hub to support DHL’s headquarters in Leipzig, Germany. Behind the push to expand operations is the boom in global e-commerce, which has increased demand for cargo capacity and distribution centers worldwide. In 2015, the global e-commerce market was USD300 billion, and it is expected to reach USD1 trillion by 2020. As a result, Lassen said the trend has increased DHL’s e-commerce shipment volumes in Turkey by 63% YoY. “Our operations have to adapt to changing customer needs, which are much more immediate nowadays,” Lassen said. “To accommodate, we had to invest heavily in our capabilities. Hubs and gateways can ensure demand can be met, and new technology here is key to meet customer demands for flexibility and choices.” While pursuing its expansion in Turkey and worldwide, DHL will also strive to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050. To do so, Lassen said the company is increasing its operational carbon efficiency by 50% compared to the DHL’s 2007 baseline. The company will also reduce local air pollution by 70% by using more electric vehicles and maximizing shipping efficiency that will also speed up delivery capabilities. Meanwhile, competing global shipping companies as well as Turkish Airlines’ cargo division, which carried 1.4 million tons of cargo in 2018, will continue to expand their presence at the new Istanbul airport. Growth in the cargo sector has already seen companies like DHL partner with Turkish technology firms to facilitate new operations. “We follow the patterns of the economy as we are facilitators of trade. Whatever happens in Turkey is reflected in our capabilities,” Lassen told TBY. “With DHL being present in 220 countries and territories, our trade is spread out, but we are centralized in Europe. That is why our Turkish operations are key.”