Airbus A330 Photo Southwind Airlines
Airbus A330 Photo: Southwind Airlines

As new routes between from Turkey and Asia increase, Turkish forwarders are seeing their willingness to service Russia tested as EU pressure ramps up.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, multiple services were set up to accommodate demand after western sanctions led to a major withdrawal of air freight services and capacity into Russia.

Forwarders told The Loadstar that in the 14 months since the invasion, their options for catering to Russia climbed significantly, with a pronounced number of services from Turkey.

One said the situation in Russia offered a “good business opportunity”, and while other countries had looked to capitalise on the demand, it was operators in Turkey that had got in front in this ‘new’ market, allowing forwarders to move up to 10 tonnes a day.

“This has been ratcheting down as EU pressure mounts on Turkey not to offer a means of bucking the sanctions regime,” the forwarder added.

Among the new carriers has been Southwind Airlines, hubbed in Antalya – founded last April, less than two months after the invasion – with flights to Russia commencing that August, already boasting five aircraft with three on order.

But more common has been one- or two-person operations with single aircraft running both ad-hoc and scheduled services.

Another forwarder told The Loadstar: “This emergence of single-aircraft operations has been going on for months. China, India and Turkey seem to be the main bases. They’re not carrying European freight, but Asian cargo into Russia and vice versa.”

Thailand has also seen single-aircraft freighter operations, with forwarders saying there is keen interest in the “sanctions-busting” business.

However, there is mounting belief that these new “airlines” lack any future and are simply a “creation of the moment”, one forwarder said they did not see them lasting more than a few years beyond the war, “although I don’t see that ending soon”.

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