In the U.S., the top eight gateway markets handle 90% of all cargo volume. Brian Clancy, a consultant with Logistics Capital & Strategy LLC, explains that in 2010, the main gateway “clusters” were the New York/New Jersey area, followed by Chicago, the express shipment carrier hubs—Memphis, Tenn./Anchorage, Alaska; and Louisville, Ky.—and then Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas.
But a shift may come soon to flow patterns. Clancy believes Atlanta could see cargo revenues take off because of its closeness to the Savannah, Ga., port and easy access to ground shipping for a complete, integrated network. This also will be the case with cities such as Huntsville, Ala., because of road and airport infrastructure and proximity to Mexico and Latin America. As labor costs continue a rapid rise in China, manufacturers are increasing their footprint in Mexico, and states such as Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina will see their labor rates on par with Shanghai by 2015, says Clancy. China will continue to be an exporting giant, but rising labor costs will create enough of a margin shift to “change the flow patterns of air cargo” more toward the Western Hemisphere, he says.
However, Michael Tretheway, vice president and chief economist for InterVistas Consulting Group, notes China and India are making massive infrastructure investments, though India’s infrastructure improvement pace is slow. Domestic air cargo in China will be the single fastest-growing market. Overall, the most rapid air cargo growth in the next 10 years will be intra-Asia. Also, growth is expected in Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.
Airports want more of this action, and through their airport associations and talks with airlines they are learning more about how to attract freight forwarders and express shippers.
A case in point is Washington Dulles International Airport, which is marketing itself as the only major East Coast airport with enough acreage to greatly expand its cargo area. Dulles plans to develop an environmental impact statement in 2012 for an area it has dedicated to cargo. Lynn Hampton, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, says airlines looking to launch service to Dulles first ask what is happening on the cargo front and how they can increase their belly cargo opportunities. “That is an eye-opener,” says Hampton.