Top 50 Cargo Airports: Strength in clusters

While Airports Council International’s “World Airport Traffic Report” focused on the performance of individual airports worldwide, a deeper dive into the data reveals some markets with surprising strength when all of the airports that handle cargo in a metropolitan area are combined – a figure not likely to be lost on forwarders and shippers looking for regions with the highest airfreight capacity.

For example, Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), which saw a 5 percent cargo increase to 3.4 million tonnes last year, was ranked a highly respectable No. 3 on the total cargo Top 50 list. But once the other four Shanghai-area airports are included – Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA), Hangzhou Xiaoshan (HGH), Nanjing Lukou (NKG) and Ningbo Lishe (NGB), none of which made the Top 50 list – the total cargo handle for the Yangtze River Delta region for 2016 becomes 4.4 million tonnes per year, just shy of the largest in the world, Hong Kong International (HKG), with 4.6 million tonnes. Likewise, when HKG is merged with the other two Pearl River Delta hubs – Guangzhou (CAN, No. 18) and Shenzhen (SZX, No. 24) – the world’s largest air cargo cluster can be seen, at nearly 7.2 million tonnes per year (see chart).

This cluster effect can be detected in other urban areas that may not be considered elite air cargo powerhouses. In Tokyo, the combined tallies of Narita International (NRT, No. 8) and Haneda Airport (HND, No. 23) equaled 3.3 million tonnes in 2016, which is just shy of the well-known tandem of Dubai International (DXB, No. 5) and Dubai World Central (DWC), which topped 3.4 million tonnes last year. Similarly, Los Angeles International (LAX), when combined with Ontario International (ONT) and San Diego (SAN) into a Southern California cluster, reaches about 2.5 million tonnes – exceeding the throughput of Anchorage (ANC, No. 6). “E pluribus, unum,” indeed.

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