In 1894, a French aristocrat and historian named Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, was seeking a motto for the creation of the modern Olympic Games, which would recreate the ancient Greek athletic contests and expand them to the rest of the world. With help from his friend, Henri Didion, a Dominican priest who was fond of athletics, de Coubertin finally settled on “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which was Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” capturing the ideals of physical competition.
More than a century later, the same motto could be applicable to the robust competition for airfreight at the world’s Top 50 Cargo Airports (see table). After nearly two years of solid growth in the air cargo arena, global air hubs are expanding as fast as they can to handle the abundance of air cargo flowing through their freight terminals.
According to the latest “Annual World Airport Traffic Report” (WATR) released this fall from Airports Council International (ACI), the amount of cargo handled by the world’s airports in 2017 increased by a record-high 7.7 percent from the previous year, to reach more than 118.6 million tonnes. Of that total, the top 50 airports profiled in these pages handled more than 74.5 million tonnes, or 62.8 percent of the world’s total. Last year, the Top 50 handled 67.7 percent of the global cargo throughput, suggesting that more cargo is flowing through the smaller hubs.
The largest region represented on Air Cargo World’s Top 50 list, by far, was Asia-Pacific, with 21 airports that handled 32.9 million tonnes – an increase of 3 percent over 2016. The next largest was North America, where 14 airports combined to handle 21.8 million tonnes, for a modest 1 percent rise over the previous year, followed by 10 European airports processing 12.8 million tonnes, which was an impressive 6 percent increase.
Less than 6.4 million tonnes of cargo moved through the four Middle Eastern hubs on the list, but it represented a 5.9 percent rise over 2016. Meanwhile, the sole Latin America-Caribbean airport in the Top 50 – Bogota’s Aeropuerto Internacional El Dorado (BOG) – handled just under 707,000 tonnes of cargo last year, a 4.8 percent increase, placing it at No. 41.
Airports located in countries that are major exporters of manufactured goods handled almost 75 percent of global air cargo volume, noted ACI researchers.
“Even with the uncertainty regarding the threat of trade wars and the growth of protectionist sentiments across the world, industrial production continued to make gains as a result of the cyclical recovery in the global economy,” the report found. “Inventory build-ups, augmented export orders and a strengthening of consumer demand reflected in increased online purchases were important drivers in the near-term. All of this translated into growth in air cargo volumes.”
Every airport in the Top 50 list reported at least some growth in 2017, with the exception of just two: Indianapolis International (IND), home of FedEx’s second-largest hub, which saw cargo dip 2.6 percent to 1.03 million tonnes, dropping it to No. 27, and Abu Dhabi International (AUH), reporting an even steeper 7.9 percent decline to 734,000 tonnes, which sent it on a six-rung plunge to No. 37. Also, neither Sydney Airport (SYD) nor São Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU), which were No. 50 and No. 49 last year, respectively, made the cut for this year’s Top 50 list.
More Top 50 information:
- Breakdown of airport movements and expansions
- Full list of Top 50 Cargo Airports
- List of Top 10 Fastest-Growing cargo airports