There are in the meantime so many large air cargo airport hubs around the world that sometimes one tends to forget that one of the originals is situated at the top of the world and often does not get the merit it deserves.
Anchorage joined east with west
Anchorage International Airport (ANC) which is ideally situated only 5 miles from the capital city has been named after Ted Stevens who was a well-liked U.S. Senator for Alaska until 2009. It started commercial operations in 1951, shortly after World War II ended and became extremely popular with international airlines who were opening services from the USA and Europe to Asian destinations. Those days the B707s and DC8s, although running on four engines, were not able to operate non-stop to and from Asia.
That’s when ANC made a name for itself as being the largest ‘aircraft gas station’ when carriers, to name just a few, such as Japan Airlines, TWA, Pan Am, Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France and SAS dropped into Anchorage on a daily basis to refuel their passenger aircraft on the way to and from Asian destinations.
That’s all changed now since non-stop two and four engined flights allow carriers to fly ultra-long-haul routes without intermediate stops.
Not so for freighters however!
Air cargo keeps ANC alive
It should be noted that Anchorage International was rated the world’s 4th busiest cargo airport in 2015. They have dropped a position since then but are still on many cargo carriers list as either a refueling airport or one which they use as an intermediate stop to offload, reshuffle and reload cargo from there to other destinations.
The airport lists almost thirty cargo orientated carriers, ranging alphabetically from AirBridgeCargo Airlines to UPS, who regularly drop into ANC to refuel or reshuffle. A move which enables them to carry maximum payloads in their freighters instead of varying reduced payloads and less revenue if they are to operate non-stop flights to some Asian destinations. However, the cargo stalwarts at ANC are the express parcels carriers, UPS, FedEx and DHL Aviation who operate large sorting and transfer hubs there. Smaller carriers such as Alaskan Airlines, PanAir and Ravn Alaska hold the fort on the passenger side.
Infrastructure investment by integrators
It should be noted that the Alaskan state government themselves have not invested that much in infrastructure development and expansion in ANC, but seem to leave that to the carriers and are content just to gain revenue on landing and handling charges, real estate rental and the state tax generated from fuel uplift.
It is the integrators who are investing for their own means in ANC. The latest news in that direction comes from UPS Airlines who have announced a US$110 million expansion investment in their cargo facilities there. They, which will bring more state revenue, plan to lease another 1.35 million square feet of land in order to erect a new sorting facility. The carrier plans to start building as of May 2020 and aims for completion by 2022. Reports state that local Alaskan real estate developer, Alaska CargoPort will lease the land on behalf of UPS. The new areas will also include aircraft maintenance space and more apron positions for the growing fleet of B747-8Fs which UPS has on order. Another important reason for choosing ANC is that the airport, in comparison to many of its neighbors in the U.S., has very relaxed customs procedures which ensure time and cost saving for the integrators on their way to and from Asian destinations.
UPS is not the only carrier looking at expanding in ANC. In the meantime, FedEx Express is planning a new expansion project which will entail an investment of US$51 million and Alaskan local carriers 6A-XL Aviation and Alaska Cargo plan to expand their cold storage and handling facilities enormously there by investing hundreds of millions of dollars during the coming years.
So, no real reason why the state government should not sit back and be happy that the carriers are taking the financial investment burden on themselves. An added bonus for the airport will be that once the expansion is completed that between 1,500 and 2,000 new jobs are expected to be generated.
Anchorage - on top of the world!
John Mc Donagh
Footnote: We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic