The fashion industry, and the many retailers based in Ohio, have made Rickenbacker Airport (LCK) in Columbus, U.S., a sustainable cargo-only airport for scheduled freighters and charters, such as Qatar Airways Cargo’s 777 freighter flight earlier this month. However, the airport is also seeing dramatic increases in exports for products, including “fashion, auto parts, electronics, genetic material and livestock,” David Whitaker, the airport’s chief commercial officer, told Air Cargo World.
Export volumes from LCK rose by a staggering 42 percent, year-over-year, in August, according to preliminary data for the month, mostly because LCK did not have adequate facilities to handle exports until June 2016. But once the airport’s fifth terminal “Air Cargo Five” became operational last year, forwarders also began utilizing outbound Rickenbacker flights to carry exports.
Even though Cathay, Emirates and Cargolux continue to operate the same number of flights as they did last year, their volumes ex-LCK were up 61 percent, 52 percent and 46 percent, respectively, in August.
The airport’s overall August handle was up 26 percent, y-o-y, not only on strong export growth, but also on the addition of new services, such as the twice-weekly Etihad flights to the Middle East and Europe, chartered by US-based forwarder Trinity Logistics. LCK already had three carriers lined up last year, with nearly a dozen scheduled freighter flights, due to strong demand for imports, alone.
The relatively new opportunity for exports from LCK has transformed flight schedules for freighter routes to the U.S., Whitaker said. Columbus is now often the only U.S. stop for freighters that “only two years ago went to Chicago to pick up freight” for export. Rickenbacker plans to keep working with shippers to increase exports over the next few months, he added.
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