Top 3 takeaways: Critical points for airports’ cargo infrastructure development

#1: Competition from below

Indirectly related to airports’ development of strategic planning is the need for airport authorities to pay attention not only to competition from other airports, but also that presented by other forms of transportation, like freight trains and ships.

“It really comes back to – do you speak enough to your customers to know their requirements?” said Liège Airport (LGG) VP Commercial Steven Verhasselt. “Jack Ma announced the 72-hour shipping promise to customers, but he never said that has to all go through air.”

Airports in general may sometimes be too focused on what it can do within the airfreight industry, but it is critical to expand the view to that of the customers. Airports need to understand how it can meet the needs of customers from a logistical solutions approach, which is not necessarily all about airfreight.

In some situations, like in LGG’s work with Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao, a mix of goods the e-commerce giant knows customers will buy according to its algorithms will be brought in from train and stored in warehouses before being sent to the airport to fly out. In this situation, the airport is only a facet of the customer’s logistics supply chain network.

LGG, for example, said it is currently working to buy the cargo train terminal located next to the airport as it believes trains are a critical part of its future growth. This move will be useful, given that Russian and Chinese state railways are moving to completely implement e-freight initiatives that will transit goods from those regions to Europe in seven to eight days at a much lower cost than airfreight. LGG said that it also maintains cooperation with Rotterdam Port, to strengthen its access to multimodal logistics providers.

Read more on Chinese freight trains to Liège here.

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