At the meeting of Frankfurt’s Air Cargo Community, scientist Thomas Van Asch of the Belgian University of Antwerp presented the results of a study on the performance of major European cargo hubs during the pandemic. His key comparative figures for creating a ranking order of the big European freight hubs in COVID-19 times, were handling speed and operational flexibility, geographical and structural determinations, as well as the management’s dealing with sudden challenges such as unscheduled “preighter” flights.
FRA outperformed its peers
In the main category “Major European Cargo Hubs”, the findings deliver a clear result: “Frankfurt is the ultimate Cargo Star, followed by Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam, London Heathrow, and Istanbul’s new airport,” the scholar stated. While FRA’s volumes went down by only 7% in pandemic times due to missing belly hold capacity offered by passenger jetliners, AMS lost 8%, CDG 15%, and LHR 28%.
Cost issues and capacity available on the main decks of freighter aircraft are further criteria in his study. There too, Frankfurt outperformed its competitors. Key reason was Rhine-Main’s operational flexibility, allowing carriers 24/7 operations, temporarily overruling the existing night flight ban in order to keep supply chains of personal protective material (PPM), medical items, and other urgently needed goods running as best it can be during the pandemic.
Key source of revenue
As far as charges and fees demanded from airlines are concerned, CDG’s price tag significantly exceeds that of FRA, while AMS offers freight carriers only limited capacity since the operator started focusing on low-cost airlines when allocating slots.
Regarding Cargo Hubs, ranked second in Mr. Van Asch’s study, Luxembourg performed best, followed by Cologne-Bonn, Liege, Milan Malpensa, and East Midlands.
Future "Freight Potentials", the next category listed in his study, are Brussels and Stansted, which also performed well in COVID-19 times, confirmed Tom van Asch.
Will the applause soon subside?
He concluded his presentation with the strong recommendation that airport operators should focus increasingly on their cargo business. Air freight has become the most important source of revenue during the last 18 months, he reminded, and will likely maintain this top position for the next 3 to 5 years.
He questioned whether this cognition would play a more important role in the long-term strategy of major European cargo hubs. Developing the air cargo market together with the ground infrastructure requires time, is costly, and demands an entrepreneurial spirit, scholar Thomas van Asch concluded. Not exactly points that make airport managers shout hooray.
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