Cargo struggles to kick back
About half of the 50 busiest cargo airports in the world saw a decline in freight activity – and most other airports’ cargo volumes barely budged.
Hong Kong International Airport was once again No. 1 on the list of the busiest cargo airports according to Airports Council International. In 2012, it saw a 2.3 percent increase in freight year over year.
Memphis International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport were No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
In general, Asian airports saw stagnant or falling cargo volumes with a few bright spots in China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Indian airports were all down.
North American airports saw little to no growth, and many European airports’ freight tumbled.
In Africa and the Middle East, the only airports that experienced growth were in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Cargo volumes remained sluggish in Latin America; Santiago grew the most at just over 6 percent.
Many airports interviewed blame low cargo levels on the European economy.
“We are very much affected by global economic trends, regional economic trends in the European context as well,” says Robert Payne, international spokesperson for Fraport, which manages Frankfurt Airport. “It’s no secret that the last few years there has been some weaknesses in the airfreight industry worldwide, and so we are affected by that.”
Frankfurt Airport is the No. 9 busiest cargo airport. In 2012, it saw a 6.7 decline in cargo.
“Germany is considered an economic driver or main motor of activity in Europe. It’s still soft,” Payne says.
Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany, No. 25 on the list, bucked the European trend of falling cargo volumes; the airport increased its freight by almost 14 percent, one of the highest percentages among the top 50 cargo airports.
“Leipzig/Halle Airport is Germany’s largest hub for express cargo, which DHL’s European hub handles here and which has significantly contributed to the airport’s on-going growth for nine years now,” Markus Kopp, CEO of Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding, says in an email interview. “We are also increasingly successful in niche markets such as freight charter traffic and the handling of heavy-duty and oversized shipments and large animals.”
Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding manages Leipzig/Halle.
Larry Cox, president and CEO of Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, says Memphis Airport being FedEx’s world hub helps tremendously. The airport saw a slight pickup in cargo.
As a result of Asia’s soft economy, FedEx decided to reduce its flights and workforce at other airports – so now Memphis receives more of that transfer traffic, Cox says.
Narita International Airport in Tokyo, the No. 10 busiest cargo airport, saw cargo increase slightly. Fumio Gunji, director cargo business department, attributes this slight growth to several factors, including the Japan earthquake in 2011.
“[The earthquake resulted] in a domestic supply chain disruption and significant negative impact on Narita,” Gunji says in an email interview. “At the same time, long continued high exchange rate of the Japanese yen and the world economy recession led to downturn in cargo volume at Narita by 10 percent compared with the previous year 2010.”
But in 2012, airlines implemented measures to fill in gaps with transit cargo, he says. That’s why in 2011, Narita experienced a 10 percent drop in cargo year over year; in 2012, it rose by just over 3 percent.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the No. 15 busiest cargo airport, saw a decline in freight of about 3 percent. Yung-Sung Wen, senior vice president of Taoyuan International Airport Corporation, says in an email interview that this is due to the deteriorating cargo revenues of two major home carriers, China Airlines and EVA Air.
Asian cargo volumes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, No. 71 on the list, grew by 12 percent year over year.
“But it was counterbalanced by an even steeper percentage loss for Europe, both import and export,” says Tom Green, senior manager air cargo operations and development at Sea-Tac.
Altogether, the airport’s international cargo rose 0.2 percent.