Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul Atatürk) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese express delivery firm ZTO Express and Hong Kong-based GSSA PAL Air to form a joint-venture integrator firm based out of Hong Kong.

A ZTO disclosure to the Shenzhen bourse said the firm, dubbed Global Ekspres, will specialize in door-to-door delivery services as well as warehouse management, and orders and supply chain management.

The move comes after Chinese online retail giant Alibaba and Cainiao Network spent USD1.38 billion to acquire an approximately 10% stake in ZTO last month.

Ilker Ayci, the Chairman of Turkish Airlines' Board of Directors, said he believes the signing of the contract is not only a major strategic move for Turkey ahead of the opening of the new airport in Istanbul, but it is also expected to change the overall dynamic of the global express delivery market.

"The joint venture company will establish a strong cooperative body, whose goal is to become one of the world's largest integrated service providers, focusing on the global e-commerce market, providing door-to-door service," he said.

Ayci told a press conference that Turkish Airlines would commit its fleet of three A310-300(F)s (wet-leased from ULS Airlines Cargo), two B777-Fs, ten A330-200(F)s, and two B747-400(F)s (wet-leased from Kalitta Air) to the initiative whose growth could warrant additional capacity. According to Bloomberg, he said Turkish Airlines Cargo could be “carved out” as a separate company in future as its operations through the JV expand, and will be one of the world’s biggest three operators by 2023.