Fueled by cargo
Leipzig/Halle Airport ranked 27th among the top 50 carriers, but saw the largest rise, year-over-year, among European airports. According to Markus Kopp, CEO of Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding, the parent company of Leipzig/Halle Airport, this is the seventh time airport officials have seen record year-over-year rises. Leipzig/Halle achieves its success, he says, by focusing on niche markets like the cargo charter business and live-animal exports (the airport opened its Animal Export Center in 2010). The airport’s proximity to Eastern European growth markets, direct access to the trans-European motorway, and 24-7 operations have also helped keep the airport in the running as a major cargo facility. Due to all these factors, 2011 was an exceptionally good year, but Kopp says that this year is shaping up nicely as well. Officials saw a 15-percent, year-over-year, rise in tonnage from January to August, and he expects to see the airport pass the 800,000 tonnes mark this year. “Contrary to the general German and European trend, cargo volume at Leipzig/Halle is rising steadily,” he says. “However, we do not live on a paradisiacal ‘logistics island,’ but are ... dependent on global economic forces. Unfortunately, we cannot look into a crystal ball and see the future.”
Exciting developments are also coming to Leipzig/Halle. By 2014, officials will unveil a €40 million cargo center, complete with direct apron access. By the end of this year, Kopp expects to see the finishing touches on a new apron, which can accommodate up to five wide-body freighters, and a new maintenance facility. As far as expansions in services, Kopp notes that airport officials are currently in touch with several Chinese carriers. And these developments, it seems, could be just the beginning.
“Leipzig/Halle Airport is a relatively young player, and it is our goal to firmly position the airport in the international markets in the long run,” Kopp says. “We will keep working hard to ensure further growth and to become ‘best in class.’ In the past few years, we had been able to demonstrate that our strategy of focusing on logistics offers huge potential for success. This is our benchmark for the future.”
Memphis International Airport isn’t used to being second on ACI’s list, but for the second year in a row, the airport ranks just behind HKIA. Year-over-year, Memphis’ activity remained flat, which is an accomplishment in the current market, and according to Larry Cox, head of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, tonnage for 2012 is up 2.75 percent. But with this boost comes a bit of disappointing passenger news — passenger activity is down 19 percent because of Delta Air Lines cutbacks.
These cutbacks, in addition to the European economy, were the biggest impacts to cargo activity. “It seems to me that cargo activity is reducing due to global economic conditions for most American airports, with little relief at hand,” he says.
A big challenge to American cargo growth includes a predilection to divert airfreight to ground transport because of ballooning air transport costs. This leads Cox to believe that the best bet moving forward is international cargo business in the perishable and critical parts spheres.
Of course, the slow economy can’t last forever. For those airport officials waiting for the global recovery, Cox has some advice: Be ready. At Memphis, he says, infrastructure improvements and the expansions are always ongoing. FedEx, one of the airport’s major drivers of activity, is working on new facilities as well. “Airport operators need to continue to plan for airport facility improvements to be ready for the inevitable turnaround in the global economy,” he says, “and operate their airports in a cost-effective way to compete with other modes of transportation.”