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Dulles Airport yearns to grow into cargo hub

By Adina Solomon on June 3, 2013

Dulles International Airport needs to capitalize on the growing international market, vice president of air service development at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says.

That’s why the Washington, D.C.-area airport is striving to grow into a cargo hub.

“It’s important to us to expand our cargo operations because we need to best meet the needs of our shipping public in the Washington region,” Mark Treadaway says. “As we see our air service grow and we see continued expansion of that air service, we see it as one of our important goals to keep growing as an international gateway cargo hub.”

Etihad Airways began daily service in March to Dulles. Emirates started flying out of the airport in 2012. Brussels Airlines pulled into Dulles in June.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, the largest carrier at the airport, is focused on the burgeoning pharmaceuticals industry, and a controlled temperature facility is in the works at the airport.

Air cargo supports 7,500 jobs in the Washington region and $600 million in labor income every year, Treadaway says.

“It’s an important catalyst, if you will, for job growth in the future and our region,” he says.

Treadaway touts the features of Dulles. Its fuel consortium presents cost advantages, it offers matching funding for airlines that want to grow their cargo business and there is a special incentive for cargo carriers who want to bring in a freighter.

Plus, cargo can reach anywhere on the East Cost within a one-day drive of Washington.

But will Dulles achieve its goal of becoming a cargo hub?

Treadaway says he has been at the airports authority for more than 20 years – and cargo has been part of Dulles’ development plan almost his entire career there. Since 2007, the airport has had dips in annual cargo throughput, which Treadaway says is on track with the rest of the U.S. cargo industry.

In 2011, the airport moved 291,000 tonnes of cargo. A year later, that figure fell by 15,000 tonnes.

The airport has also seen drops recently because of the Eurozone crisis.

“The global economy and the interconnectedness of global trade is an inevitable variable that we don’t have a lot of control over,” Treadaway says.

Yet he remains optimistic.

“We’re bullish about the future,” he says. “As the economy recovers, Dulles will ride with that.”

Treadaway points to the 25 cargo airlines that are at Dulles and the fact that the airport is chasing the pharmaceuticals and perishables industries by planning a perishable goods facility.

“It’s just a question of staying committed and staying open and willing to build the business,” he says.

Though Treadaway says he doesn’t know how long it will take Dulles to grow into a hub, the airport remains persistent.

“We are 100 percent committed to staying tenacious in growing cargo – growing the cargo that comes naturally because of our international expansion as well as working on freighter service and bringing in the benefits of a larger all-cargo aircraft,” he says.

Dulles is exploring all the avenues it can. It has Etihad, Emirates and Brussels. It is looking at the pharmaceuticals and perishables industries.

It is pursing its goal of maturing into a cargo hub.

“You pick where you think you have the most potential, but you sort of chase everything,” Treadaway says. “We have a lot of opportunities, and we have support and incentive to pursue it.”

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