What are the top 10 airports in the US doing to win your air cargo business?
It would be easy to assume that the busiest cargo airports in the US would correspond to those located the nation’s largest cities or, perhaps, next to its busiest ports. But as we look at airports on this list, we see that quite a few other factors come into play: geography, workforce, infrastructure, and technology, to mention a few; also the economy, trade policy, and mundane factors such as airport fees, or even noise restrictions and how late a plane can land!
Most of the airports on this list continue to make aggressive investments in order to win your business. And with air freight demand predicted to fall closer in-line with supply in 2019 (see the article “2019 Air Freight Outlook”), it will be interesting to see who comes out ahead — and who falls behind — over the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, it’s important to choose the cargo airport(s) that work(s) best with your current supply chain needs, so use a freight forwarder that can help you adjust your strategy as your needs — and the market — shifts. “The usage of strategic hubs is an integral part of our strategy to serve our customers, not only in the US, but in the entire Americas Region,” says Asok Kumar, Head of Airfreight, Region Americas “In this regard, DB Schenker has extensive operations at all the top cargo airports in the US, giving us the necessary network and consolidation benefits to better meet our customers needs.”
The rankings below are based on the 2018 ACI World Airport Traffic Report (WATR), which includes totals from 2017.
1. Memphis International Airport (MEM)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 4,336,752
2017 World Rank: 2
Memphis International is all about cargo. While it isn’t even in the top 50 for passengers, it’s the busiest cargo airport in the US, and second in the world only to Hong Kong’s 4.9 million metric tons. What accounts for the volume? For one thing, MEM is home to FedEx’s SuperHub, which handles more than 180,000 packages per hour and generates some 400 flights daily.
The airport has four runways, sits on 3,900 acres, and has 1 million ft2 in cargo facilities. It’s strategically located near the Port of Memphis, the second largest inland port in the US thanks to the Mississippi River.
DB Schenker offers full service Air Export and Import operations in Memphis, with 14,700 ft2 of warehouse space, four on-site Dangerous Goods Specialists, and features overnight access to Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago gateways.
2. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 2,713,230
2017 World Rank: 5
ANC has even less passenger traffic than Memphis. But with approximately 80% of Asian airfreight imports entering the US through Anchorage, it’s no wonder that ANC is the world’s 5th busiest cargo airport. Besides being the closest US city to North Asia — a mere 6 to 7 hour flight — carriers also enjoy favorable U.S. Department of Transportation cargo transfer regulations. The fact that planes can take off and land 24/7 also helps. And the airport is a vital hub for Alaska for another reason: since more than 80% of the state is inaccessible by road, most goods destined for Alaska, whether they arrive by air, land or ocean, are delivered to ANC to be loaded onto planes large and small.
ANC sits on 4,600 acres and handles about 600 wide-body freighters a week. Cargo facilities operating at the airport are all privately owned including special cold supply chain facilities supporting Alaska’s seafood trade.
DB Schenker handles air freight operations at ANC through its offices in Seattle, Washington.
3. Louisville International Airport (SDF)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 2,602,695
2017 World Rank: 7
Louisville is home to UPS’s Worldport, a 5.2 million ft2 facility able to process over 400,000 packages per hour, mostly bound for domestic destinations. Besides easy highway access, the airport has access to three Class 1 railroads and two inland ports along the Ohio River. The airport’s three runways and 1,500 acres are located right in the center of the city. Despite being smaller than some of the other airports on this list, it’s still the 7th busiest cargo airport in the world.
DB Schenker’s Louisville operations in are less than 4 miles from SDF and include 13,000 ft2 of warehouse space.
4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Los Angeles, California
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 2,158,324
2017 World Rank: 13
LAX serves the Greater Los Angeles area, the 3rd largest metropolitan economy in the world (after Tokyo and New York, approximately $770 billion), so it’s no surprise that the airport is a major international gateway for cargo and passengers alike (it’s the second busiest passenger airport in the US, after Atlanta, GA). Additionally, LAX is located just 25 miles from the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach (here’s our list of top ports in the Americas), the busiest port in the US. For cargo, it’s the world’s 13th busiest airport. However, if you were to combine it with Ontario International, 55 miles to the east, and San Diego International, 125 miles to the south, the combined total cargo would make LAX the 4th busiest cargo airport in the world; for this list it would take the #2 slot.
LAX has 4 parallel runways and covers 3,500 acres. Carriers and 3PL providers have access to 2.1 million ft2 of capacity across more than 20 dedicated cargo facilities. An additional 4 million ft2 of cargo capacity is also available around or near the airport. And its proximity to the ports of LA and Long Beach, with their road and rail infrastructure, make the airport a key component of a global, multi-modal hub.
Los Angeles is home to one of DB Schenker’s international logistics hubs. It maintains 22,000 ft2 of warehouse space in LA and two offices: one dedicated to Air and Ocean freight, the other to Breakbulk and Brokerage.
5. Miami International Airport (MIA)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 2,071,722
2017 World Rank: 14
As the southernmost international airport in the contiguous US, MIA handles more Latin American freight than any other airport: 83% of all air imports and 79% of all US air exports to the region . According to the airport, it also handles more international freight than any other airport in the US. And it’s one of the most innovative — in the last two years it: became one of the first six U.S. cargo hub airports to eliminate a paper air waybill; was designated by the U.S. Department of Commerce as a Foreign Trade Zone magnet site; established the first ocean-to-air perishables trans-shipment program in Florida; launched an internet-based real-time cargo flight tracker; became IATA certified for handling pharmaceuticals. It’s no wonder that Asia Cargo News recognized the airport as the 2018 Best Airport in North America for air cargo.
MIA has four runways on 3,300 acres, and has 3.4 million ft2 of warehouse, office and support space, including 445,000 ft2 of refrigerated warehouse space.
DB Schenker’s Americas headquarters are located in Miami, only 13 miles from Miami International. Its global hub in Miami specializes in Latin America and beyond, and its 119,000 ft2 of warehouse space offers temperature-controlled options.
6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 1,721,807
2017 World Rank: 20
It takes about 13 hours to fly from Shanghai to Chicago; still, an estimated 25% of ORD’s international freight comes from China. In fact, Chicago’s Midwest location makes it an ideal global gateway for Asian freight bound for the East Coast. And not just for air cargo: rail lines linking Chicago to West Coast ports make it a major gateway for ocean freight (click here to read about the Port of Vancouver/Chicago connection). In 2017, with air cargo volumes up over 12% YOY, Chicago O’Hare opened the second phase of a $220 million northeast cargo development, bringing the total cargo facility capacity to approximately 2 million ft2. At any given time, 15 widebody aircraft can unload at O’Hare. O’Hare is also the 3rd busiest passenger airport in the US, and is one of only ten international airports that are connected to more than 200 airports.
DB Schenker’s international hub in Chicago offers full service brokerage 7 days a week. Their Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF) consists of 160,000 ft2 of warehouse space and offers both cold (2-8˚ C) and temperature-controlled (15-25˚ C) processing. The facility also has the ability to consolidate air waybills into single weekly entry to save on CBP fees, as well as duty-saving FTZ capabilities targeted towards high value items. Just announced: weekly direct temperature-controlled service to Sydney.
7. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
New York City, New York
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 1,350,599
2017 World Rank: 23
Although JFK ranks 7th on this list for total cargo volume by weight, it claims the top spot in the US for cargo value . And if cargo volume totals were combined with nearby EWR in Newark, NJ (the 11th busiest cargo airport in the US), the airport would rank just after Los Angeles.
The Port Authority of NY & NJ, which operates JFK, has invested over $7 billion in the airport to-date. With 1,700 acres dedicated to freight and some 4 million ft2 of cargo facilities supporting 600 international freight forwarders, JFK boasts some unique capabilities. For example: the Ark, a 78,000 ft2 facility designed to handle animals of all kinds, including livestock and exotic animals, opened in 2017. The new 70,000 ft2 Air France-KLM facility adds B747-8F aircraft capability. The airport offers extensive cold-chain processing capabilities for pharmaceuticals, food, and perishables. The entire cargo area is designated as an FTZ, and it’s home to U.S. Customs for the Northeast region. The airport benefits from its proximity to the Ports of NY and NJ, and access to an extensive East Coast/National rail network. It also caters to trucking: the JFK Airport Travel Plaza offers truckers parking, fuel, food, and rest services — the first of it’s kind in the US.
DB Schenker’s international hub in New York includes 42,000 ft2 of warehouse space and offers comprehensive logistics solutions, customs brokerage services, risk management, and FTZ facilities.
8. Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 1,038,620
2017 World Rank: 27
Located just 200 miles south of Chicago O’Hare is IND, another crucial gateway for the Midwest logistics sector. It’s home to the second-largest FedEx hub in the world: the 2.4 million ft2 facility, which can sort 99,000 packages per hour and employs 4,000 workers, turned 30 last year and is scheduled for $1.5 billion in improvements over the next 7 years . IND operates five dedicated cargo facilities, including 40,000 ft2 of controlled-temperature space particularly geared to support the agroscience, bioscience, and pharmaceutical industries. The airport operates 3 runways on 7,700 acres and can accommodate large aircraft such as the 747-8F.
DB Schenker has two facilities in Indianapolis. Its Plainfield branch has 36,000 ft2 of warehouse space, of which 17,000 ft2 is temperature controlled, 1,500 ft2 is refrigerated and optimized for pharmaceuticals, and 5,000 ft2 is available for handling hazardous goods. A second 20,000 ft2 facility is located within the Foreign Trade Zone at IND and offers 14,000 ft2 of temperature controlled space, 5,000 ft2 of refrigerated space, and 800 ft2 of freezer space. Located only 1,600 ft from the cargo bay, the facility has direct ramp access and offers pallet buildup and breakdown within highly specific temperature ranges (e.g. +2 to +8° C, +15 to +21° C, and -2° C and below), as well as shipment re-icing prior to customs clearance if needed. DB Schenker Healthcare operates 3 direct GDP-certified Boeing 747-800 flights per week from IND to/from Europe, in partnership with Cargolux (watch the video here).
9. Cincinnati/North Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 944,995
2017 World Rank: 30
CVG is by far the fastest growing cargo airport on this list. Cargo volume was up 27% in 2017 YOY, and is up an incredible 2000% over the last 10 years (the airport moved 43,800 metric tons of cargo in 2007). And that’s before Amazon Prime Air new 3 million ft2 facility is completed in 2021. DHL’s 108,000 packages-per-hour “superhub” is also here. CVG sits on 7,500 acres with lots of room for expansion. Its four runways, set in a crisscross pattern allowing for safe takeoffs and landings in a wide range of weather conditions, have plenty of extra capacity. And a 44% cut in landing fees in recent years, which the airport expects to lower even further once Amazon Prime Air is online, has helped make CVG an increasingly attractive option for both airfreight forwarders and passengers alike.
DB Schenker’s offices and 25,000 ft2 of warehouse space are located directly adjacent to CVG and, in addition to air freight, it offers a full host of services, including global supply chain management, Customs clearance, and consulting.
10. Dallas/Ft Worth International Airport (DFW)
2017 Cargo in Metric Tons: 809,929
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
2017 World Rank: 35
Watch out Miami, DFW has its sights on your Latin American business! And it’s succeeding: DFW has become the #1 preferred U.S. connecting gateway between Latin America and Asia . One way it’s done this is by increasing its cold storage capacity, with a new facility coming online in June 2017 that is an optimal connecting hub for perishables between the two regions. The airport is doing everything it can to transform itself from primarily a passenger airport (the 4th busiest in the US) to a serious air freight player. This includes leveraging its central location: DFW is a 4-hour flight or less to/from all major markets in North America; and it’s a mere 7-hour drive from the Laredo Mexico border, which makes it a major hub for Asia- and Europe-bound Mexican exports arriving by truck. The airport is also looking to leverage valuable belly cargo capacity thanks to its vast network of 200 passenger destinations worldwide, its FTZ status, and competitive landing fees.
And this being Texas, everything is bigger: DFW has 20 million ft2 of on-airport warehouse capacity and seemingly unlimited room for expansion with its 17,200 acres of land, the second largest in the US (after Dallas). At #10 on this list, it’s clear that Dallas/Ft Worth International doesn’t intend to stay there!
Dallas is home to another one of DB Schenker’s international hubs, offering air, ocean and land freight services, FTZ services, comprehensive logistics solutions and global supply chain management services.
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