On the Rise: Top 40 cargo airports provide glimpses of future growth

acw-nov-featureSometimes all it takes is a shift in strategy from a single carrier to make an impact on airport freight traffic. Qatar Airways Cargo, for instance, has been ramping up its airfreight routes for the last couple of years, seeking more high-value cargo, such as pharmaceuticals, and forming joint ventures with other airlines, such as IAG. Qatar achieved such growth via “fleet and network expansion, innovation in our technology, creative interline agreements and by deploying capacity on expanding or untapped markets,” said Ulrich Ogiermann, the carrier’s chief cargo officer.

As a result, Hamad International Airport (DOH) in the capital city of Doha, saw a 46 percent rise in its total airfreight traffic (1.45 million tonnes), compared with the previous year – the sharpest one-year increase in overall cargo volume seen anywhere in the world in 2015.

Other times, it’s an infrastructure upgrade that makes a noticeable difference. Chicago’s O’Hare International (ORD), which has long plagued forwarders with congested access and cramped warehouse space, recently completed a major runway expansion and surface-street overhaul, and reported that its total cargo handle for 2015 was up 15.6 percent. Similarly, Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia is nearing completion of a major overhaul and expansion of its facilities, and reported a 45 percent boost in its cargo throughput to more than 716,000 tonnes in 2015.

These are just a few of the intriguing results released from the annual World Airport Traffic Report (WATR), compiled by Airports Council International (ACI). Total cargo handled – including loaded and unloaded freight and mail – by airports worldwide in 2015 was up 2.4 percent over 2014, reaching about 105.5 million tonnes. International freight handled was up 2.2 percent to 63 million tonnes, accounting for a little more than 61 percent of the total volume.

Generally, the list of the Top 40 largest cargo airports didn’t change drastically, year-over-year; most of the top hubs stayed in roughly the same position, with a few swapping one or two positions up or down. “The world’s air cargo market is highly concentrated, with the top 30 air cargo hubs handling 58 percent of global air cargo volumes,” said the ACI report.

However, a few stood out with double-digit growth, such as Doha, which moved up four notches from the No. 24 spot last year to crack the top 20 for the first time ever. It is these climbers – the facilities that are investing in new infrastructure and seeking innovative relationships with forwarders and ground handlers – that are pointing toward a cautiously optimistic future for airfreight.

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