It’s no secret that air cargo growth has disappeared in the second half of 2015. A manufacturing slump in China, a spiraling debt crisis in Europe, falling fuel surcharges, and continued economic turmoil in South America have all contributed to yields shrinking in most regions around the world – even those areas where growth continues, such as Asia and the Middle East, the rate of growth has been shrinking. By most accounts, the rest of 2015 will produce much of the same mediocre performance for the air cargo industry.
Most of the world’s airports, however, are suffering through none of this gloom and doom. Memories of the boom times in the last half of 2014, when a surprisingly strong peak season and the U.S. West Coast port crisis sent traffic tonnage soaring, serve as reminders that booms and busts can come and go in quick succession. For airport cargo facilities, the operators know that speeding up ground-handling systems, clearing backlogs and reducing trans-shipment times are of paramount importance for forwarders, regardless of whether the economic indicators are rising or falling.
Every year, the Airports Council International (ACI) publishes its World Airport Traffic Report (WATR), the definitive reference of the latest available airport traffic data, surveying more than 2,200 facilities in 160 countries. In these pages, Air Cargo World publishes the rankings of the Top 20 Cargo Airports in terms of 2014 tonnage. (For more information on the 2014 ACI WATR, please click here.) This year, we also go beyond the WATR to get more up-to-date information, not only about how selected airports are faring in today’s economy, but also what they are doing to work more closely and more efficiently with freight forwarders and shippers.
Echoes from 2014
Looking at the WATR tonnage figures for 2014, the latest data made available by ACI, the effects of the surge in cargo activity in the second half of last year, driven partly by a stronger-than-expected peak season and the U.S. West Coast port crisis, is made evident in the charts for domestic, international and combined air cargo shipments (see charts). Almost across the board, with the anomalous exception of Dubai International (DXB), which has fallen by 3.1 percent over the previous year (see sidebar), cargo volumes among the top 20 largest cargo airports rose significantly.
Despite the uneven recovery in the global economy, there was a net increase in global demand for foreign goods and commodities in 2014. This helped awaken the air cargo market in 2014 after several years of low growth, ACI said. Most regions demonstrated weak year-over-year growth rates in air cargo volume in 2013, but experienced stronger growth in 2014, when total volume increased by 4.7 percent, according to ACI.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) again took top honors, with nearly 4.42 million tonnes of total cargo handled in 2014, a 6.0 percent increase over 2013. Following close behind was Memphis, U.S., the main hub of FedEx Express, which handled a total of 4.26 million tonnes, a 2.9 percent increase from the previous year. Shanghai Pudong took third place again, with 3.18 million tonnes, representing a strong 8.6 percent jump compared to 2013.
Most airports in the Top 20 maintained their positions from last year, with just a few moving up one or two spots. The airports that grew the fastest, on a percentage basis, included Chicago O’Hare, with a 12.1 percent surge to reach 1.38 million tonnes and a move from No. 20 to No. 19 on the Top 20 list. Guangzhou’s year-to-year 11.0 percent rise to No. 18 on the list, with 1.45 million tonnes, was also impressive.
On the domestic freight chart, the ripples from China’s e-commerce boom become more evident, with seven of the Top 20 airports coming from Mainland China, including Beijing (No. 3, 1.05 million tonnes), followed by Shanghai Pudong (No. 5, 10.2 percent rise, 767,864 tonnes).
For more Top Airport analysis:
- What airports are doing to meet increased demand
- Dubai’s double vision comes into focus
- Sneak preview of airports yet to come
Get more air cargo insights at the 2015 Cargo Facts Symposium, Oct. 26-28 in Miami. Click here for details.