Benelux Special – Part 4
Looking back on another good year, Liège Airport is preparing for the Alibaba operation to take off. It fits perfectly into the business model the airport has set, says VP Commercial, Steven Verhasselt.
“Alibaba has submitted its planning application and we expect the building permit to be issued in the first half of 2020,” says Mr Verhasselt. The actual construction work will start
right after that, the manager adds. "The building will be Alibaba’s investment entirely, but as an airport we will have to ensure that the airside is well connected,” he stresses.
For LGG, this means that aircraft parking space and fuel hydrant connections will have to be provided, along with additional road infrastructure and truck parking. So, the airport will also need to invest substantially and timely, in accordance with Alibaba.
Different from Schiphol
Recently, Schiphol Airport’s cargo chief, Bart Pouwels, implied that the traffic generated by the Alibabas of this world were very labor-intensive and far from lucrative. To this, Mr Verhasselt replies that Schiphol’s model is totally different from LGG’s.
“Liège Airport is transforming from an air cargo hub into a Multimodal Logistics Hub. Its success is directly linked to cargo flows that have LGG as their point of origin or destination, and Alibaba is a perfect example of a logistics player generating these flows.”
Fingers crossed for no flight tax
Still referring to the situation in the Netherlands, Mr Verhasselt expresses his hope that their flight tax debate will not give Belgium’s political minds ideas. “Airports and airlines alike are well aware of the present discussion and will do their utmost to reduce or compensate the environmental impact. LGG, for example, is involved in a reforestation project in Madagascar,” the manager states.
“I also want to point out that airfreight is a major driver of employment in the Liège area. Not all products are just luxury. Some of them are vital, such as pharma, and it would be impossible to imagine modern life without them, even for people advocating a flight tax.”
“These products will always find their way, and if they are not flown to Belgium, they will arrive there by truck from another airport, increasing the global CO2 impact. Therefore, I do certainly not support the approach taken in the Netherlands, even if it may bring some advantages to LGG in the short term.”
Another record year
Going against global trends, Liège Airport has achieved another record of 902,480 tons, compared to 870,644 tons in 2018 (+3.6%). “Our performance is significant in the context of a year that experienced many upheavals, with a double figure growth for the first three months, slowing down between April and July and then declining in August and September. We bounced back at the end of the year,” explained Luc Partoune, CEO of Liège Airport.
Marcel Schoeters in Liège
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