The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its 2019 worldwide airport slot report showing increased congestion levels at major airports, which may push cargo providers to seek other airport options. A subsequent statement from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) said that tightening local regulations surrounding delayed and overnight flights are exacerbating congestion issues.
According to IATA’s report, 204 airports worldwide are now designated as “Level 3” slot-coordinated facilities, which means that these airports are at full capacity for runway and parking availability. More than half of the world’s level 3 slot-coordinated airports are in Europe, including London Heathrow (LHR), Paris de Gaulle (CDG), Frankfurt (FRA) and Amsterdam (AMS). Other regions comprise varying percentages of the world’s level 3 airports – the Asia-Pacific region hosts 20 percent, not including China, which has 11 percent alone; the Americas host 11 percent, which include Mexico City (MEX), New York (JFK) and Vancouver (YHR); and the Middle East and Africa host only 8 percent, including Dubai International (DXB) and Johannesburg (JNB), registering at level 3.
The news comes as no surprise because airports and operators have long been aware of growing challenges to congestion at airports. For cargo, the issue is further exacerbated by the fact that passenger flights often receive preference in scheduling slots, placing cargo operations second for options.
Challenges to securing landing and takeoff slots vary around the world, but become more difficult depending on local restrictions, according to the NBAA. For example, in London, restrictions on overnight flying present the largest issue due to Luton Airport’s (LDN’s) ban on night flights and Stansted’s slim offering of 10 ad-hoc night slots; In Tokyo, operators can choose between Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND) – NRT has a night curfew but permits airplanes to park longer, while HND operates 24/7 but has limits to parking.
Air cargo providers are approaching the issue with a variety of methods. Some airports in Europe, such as Frankfurt (FRA) and Brussels (BRU), have formed air cargo communities with forums to discuss and propose solutions to these challenges. Over the past year several cargo providers, including AirBridgeCargo, have moved their hubs to new airports, while others, like Amazon, have avoided operations at major airports, instead choosing the flexibility and capacity offered at less busy airports, as reported by our sister site, Cargo Facts.
Ultimately however, improved and expanded infrastructure will serve as the crux to alleviating current capacity issues and preparing for anticipated future growth. Some countries, such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, are building second – and even third – airports to alleviate pressures to existing major airports, while others, like Mexico, are also considering adopting this model.