FROM THE PRINT EDITION:
There were many familiar faces in Shanghai last month during the Air Cargo Excellence (ACE) Awards ceremony. But there were also some notable newcomers that climbed the ranks in this celebration of the top air logistics industry firms, as chosen by Air Cargo World readers.
All three air cargo carriers that were honored with a Diamond Award last year repeated the feat during the March 10 awards gala, held in conjunction with the International Air Transport Association’s World Cargo Symposium at Shanghai’s Pudong Shangri-La hotel.
Airport-wise Hong Kong inched out Incheon; Schiphol, Cologne-Bonn and Zurich still ruled the very competitive Europe region; Puerto Rico stood out in Latin America; Dubai dominated the Middle East, India and Africa market; and Anchorage, Alaska, Ontario, Calif. and Minneapolis-St.Paul are still going gangbusters in North America.
The ACE Awards, now in their 10th year, are determined by surveys that are distributed to Air Cargo World subscribers throughout the world. Carriers are voted on by forwarders, cargo agents and third-party logistics providers. Subscribers identified as those working for an airline voted on the airports.
Airlines are rated on customer service, performance, value and information technology. Airports are rated on performance, value, facilities and regulatory operations. For a full explanation visit aceawards.aircargoworld. com/project/ace-methodology.
Top carriers repeat 2014 wins
The top three cargo carriers remain unstoppable. So, what’s in their secret sauce? It seems to be different for all of them, but geography, excellent employees and partnerships were all reasons for their success.
Continuing its long streak of Diamond wins, the top carrier that handled 1 million or more tonnes of cargo in 2014 was Emirates SkyCargo.
“With Dubai’s geographical advantage of being in the center of east and west, we are able to carry products across the world with just one stop in Dubai,” said spokesperson Sandy Barqawi. “Many multi-national companies have chosen Dubai – which is our hub – as their regional/global distribution base from where they move their products to the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.”
She said serving both primary and secondary cities in key markets with multiple frequencies is also key to its success. Emirates has continued to expand its freighter operations along with its belly-hold capacity. The carrier provides belly hold cargo services to more than 140 destinations in addition to 50 scheduled freighter services.
For 2015, Emirates has one more 777F on order, which will arrive in August. All told, Emirates has pending delivery of 284 aircraft, all widebody, worth over US$138 billion at list prices. It is currently expanding its cargo handling facility at Dubai International Airport, which should be completed in May.
In the 400,000 to 999,999 tonne category, Japan Airlines was also a repeat victor. Air Cargo World was not able to reach any JAL representatives from the carrier, but the latest news from the Tokyo-based carrier is that it reduced its surcharge February 1 to US$1.05 per kg, and US$0.85 per kg. from Hawaii.
However, right on JAL’s heels was Platinum runner-up IAG Cargo. John Cheetham, regional commercial manager, Asia-Pacific and India, at IAG said the decision to remove its freighters was a significant step to address the key industry issue of overcapacity.
“In 2014 we entered into a strategic agreement with Qatar Airways which has provided further lift on key trade lanes and positioned the carrier for future growth. Later in the year, we went a step further with the launch of EuroConnector, which has provided customers with a simple, cost effective and time-definite solution for shipping freight into, around and out of Europe,” Cheetham said.
IAG said it will build on its performance this year by working in partnerships with other airlines and forwarder networks to improve its position.
Once again Southwest Airlines was the winner for the carrier that handled up to 399,999 tons of cargo in 2014. Wally Devereaux, senior director of cargo and charters for Southwest, said he credits the airline’s success to its “fantastic network with a lot of flights in the lower 48” contiguous United States.
“Our high frequency network allows for a lot of creativity, redundancy and capacity,” Devereaux said.
Emphasizing what great people are in Southwest’s employ, he said they load all of the cargo exactly like they do passenger luggage. For the most part, the handlers and ramp people are Southwest employees – therefore they take ownership in their roles.
This year Southwest is building a new automation system to allow it to put cargo on its own international flights as well as track cargo.
“It will also allow us to be a much more viable partner for our interline flights,” Devereaux said. Internationally, Southwest flies to Mexico City, Cancun, Aruba, Montego Bay and Cabo San Lucas.
Asian airports close in performance
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), the world’s busiest cargo airport for the last four years, was the Asian Diamond winner in the 1 million-tonnes-or-more category.
HKIA, which handled 4.38 million tonnes of cargo in 2014, is a major gateway connecting Hong Kong, mainland China and the rest of the world, including about 180 destinations worldwide. With its location near the center of several major Asian cities, half of the world’s population is within a five-hour reach.
The airport has more than 40 parking stands for cargo aircraft, and four cargo terminal operators. As a whole, HKIA has cargo terminal capacity of 7.4 million tonnes a year.
Since HKIA opened in 1998 the growth in air cargo has been dramatic. The airport’s Master Plan 2030, announced in 2011, estimated that its existing two-runway system would reach capacity somewhere between 2019 and 2022, but more recent forecasts suggest it will max out between 2016 and 2017. With the fast growth of freighters at HKIA and the associated growth of air cargo, expedited airport infrastructure is a challenge HKIA is prepared to face.
Also of special note were Certificate runners-up Singapore Changi (SIN) and Tokyo Narita (NRT), which ran a close second and third to HKIA in the 1 million-tonnes-or more category.
Kansai International Airport (KIX), near Osaka, Japan, was tops in the 400,000-to-999,999-tonnes category, and is also a repeat Diamond Award winner. The relatively new airport, built in 1994, has 15 freighter slots and is home to the FedEx Express North Pacific regional hub. The airport has 138 cargo flights a week, with extensive connections to China and other parts of Asia. Providing ample warehouse space and amenities like crew rest spaces, showers and a convenience store makes it an attractive hub. Air Cargo World was not able to reach anyone at KIX for comment.
European airports retain crowns
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) once again won the Diamond Award for handling 1 million tonnes, or more, of cargo in 2014. Enno Osinga, senior vice president, cargo, said the airport’s cargo volume was up 6.7 percent in 2014, three to four times more than other European airports.
“This is the gateway to Europe for China,” Osinga said. “The Chinese airlines have decided to base their operations in Amsterdam.” He said it’s a logical choice because Amsterdam is a major distribution point for goods. Osinga said the Netherlands has a highly qualified, multi-lingual workforce, as well as a government and customs bureau that are both very business-oriented.
“The entire public/private sector is focused on international trade,” Osinga said. “At Schiphol cargo we have focused, very strongly, in establishing that marketplace.”
This year Osinga expects marginal growth only because KLM is reducing its cargo capacity. But the first quarter should see strong flower imports from Ecuador, Colombia and Africa for International Women’s Day – a huge event in Russia – which took place on March 8. From Amsterdam, the flowers are trucked to Moscow, or flown to Russian destinations farther away.
Cologne-Bonn (CGN) ruled supreme in the 400,000-to- 999,999-tonnes-handled category. Like Schiphol, it is a repeat winner from last year. Cargo director, Franz van Hessen, said Cologne is very lucky due to its location right in the middle of Europe’s strongest cargo market. “We have marketed ourselves very well,” he said. “UPS, FedEx and DHL all have their gateways in Cologne, so their substantial [presence] helps us with further cargo business.”
Van Hessen said Eurowings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, would be positioning itself in Cologne this year, and Slovakia’s Air Cargo Global has decided to operate out of Cologne as well. “In the general cargo field we’re growing and we expect to grow more,” Van Hessen said. “Our entire customer base is growing.”
Europe’s up-to-399,999-tonnes-handled category was one of the most competitive fields in the ACE awards, with eight of the nine finalists earning above-average certificates. Perennial favorite Zurich Airport (ZRH), however, took the prize, with a dense road network connecting it to economic centers not only in Switzerland, but also in southern Germany, France, Italy and Austria. Zurich is small, yet big enough to process a large amount of freight quickly and efficiently at peak times.
Puerto Rico jumps four spots
First-time winner San Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the clear victor in Latin America, with 138 points – the highest overall score in the entire ACE survey.
CEO Augustin Arellano said the airport owes its success to its location between North and South America, which facilitates exporting and importing goods between the Americas and Europe. Fifty percent of the cargo is imports, he said, while the other half is exported to North or South America, or to Europe. Top exports include perishable food, agricultural products, flowers, manufactured goods and pharmaceuticals.
This year, SJU is working on a major revamp to modernize the cargo area, including auxiliary installations like ramps and illumination.
Dubai takes Doha’s title
It’s no surprise that Dubai International (DXB) was the facility winner in this category, taking the title from Doha, Qatar, since the combined freight handled by it and neighboring Dubai World Central (DWC) jumped 18.1 percent in 2014. Ali Zaigham, manager of press relations, said that the airport’s success is the result of farsighted vision of the leadership that correctly recognized the aviation sector as being at the core of the nation’s economy. He said that is why Dubai has been a supporter of open skies policy since the opening of Dubai International in 1960.
The last major expansion at DXB will be completed this year in the form of Concourse D, which will increase passenger capacity from 75 million to 90 million per annum. The airport expects 79 million passengers to pass through this year.
North America: Two repeats, one new competitor
Location, location, location is what Trudy Wassel at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) cites as the main reason the airport is number one yet again for cargo handled in the 1 million-or-more-tonne category. Anchorage, (Alaska) is a nine-and-a-half-hour flight from 90 percent of the industrialized world.
“Everyone stops here for gas,” Wassel, division operations manager, said. “We have three runways, a record of never being closed, and we’re very security conscientious. We have great services and great ground handling.”
She said cargo volume is inching up as the U.S. economy improves. Also, Alaska has special “starburst” cargo transfer rights, a law that permits air cargo to be transferred from a foreign cargo carrier to another cargo carrier without being considered to have broken its international journey. For example, a large 777 freighter coming in from abroad, can unload its cargo onto smaller cargo aircraft headed for multiple destinations in the lower 48, then go back to its base to load up again.
“The bottom line is they (carriers) want to make money, and they can come here, get fuel, and great service,” Wassel said.
The North American airport that took home the Diamond award for handling 400,000 to 999,000 tonnes was LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT), which was in third place in this category last year. Jess Romo, manager of the Southern California airport, said the facility has two tremendous partners on the field, UPS and FedEx Express.
“They account for well over 90 percent of the cargo movement at Ontario,” Romo said. “Our goals are to provide as attractive an environment as possible, and this speaks directly to cost efficiencies that result in very reasonable landing fees, long runways located on a well maintained airfield, and great weather throughout most of the year.”
He said UPS made ONT its western region hub in the early ’90s, and recently completed construction of a new sorting facility that will enable more efficient handling of its air and ground business at ONT. FedEx also recently reconfigured its ramp areas and worked closely with the airport to resize cargo hardstands to better accommodate its fleet mix, which is slated to up-gauge in the coming years. Both of these initiatives will help UPS and FedEx prepare for increased cargo uplift as warranted by overall business cycles. ONT has seen year-over-year cargo volume growth since 2010, and Romo expects 2015 to be another good year.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is the winner for the airport handling up to 399,999 tonnes of freight, a repeat of last year. Eric Johnson, the director of commercial management and airline affairs for MSP, said part of the airport’s success is due to the fact that Minneapolis-Saint Paul is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies – 3M, General Mills and Target among them. He said the vast majority of the cargo handled through MSP is carried by FedEx and UPS, since they both have significant facilities at the airport. Johnson said DHL, also a big player at the airport, is looking at a proposal to expand its facilities at MSP this year.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul was hit by hard winter weather this year, but Johnson said it is always ranked near the top for its ability to remove snow. “It’s a very rare occasion that we close,” he said.
Find opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s most dynamic airfreight market, at Cargo Facts Asia, April 21-22 in Hong Kong. Get more information here.
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