What the heck is happening in air cargo? For the last three decades, global and domestic air cargo growth has grown at the anemic rate of 2 to 3 percent per year. Even during the period of 2001 to 2008 when containerized growth was in double digits, air cargo still maintained a bleak single-digit growth rate. But for the last two years, air cargo growth zoomed ahead at 6 to 7 percent growth; during the first three quarters of 2017 it exceeded 10 percent year over year.
E-commerce is the key driver, along with some terrible natural disasters that impacted supply chains around the world. Another driver is the demand for last-minute changes in retail fashion, electronics (cell phones and pads), and a larger push for perishable items (flowers, food, and “cold chain” products) around the world. As a result, across the US significant demand for air cargo “lift” at passenger and freight airports increased, and the capacity to handle the new volume of air cargo has placed strains on existing facilities and networks.
Today, at key gateways and airports with international “belly” capacity, facilities are “maxed out” and space to accommodate this growth in nonexistent. Smart people who run airports with land and capacity are looking at new partnerships with the airlines to create alternative cargo gateways where high volumes of e-commerce can be processed (export or import) and moved into the “last mile” systems. As other global e-commerce service providers enter the US and compete with Amazon, demand for new hubs and facilities will peak, and airports, truckers, delivery services, and facilities will be at a premium to meet the demand for “faster to market” solutions.
New gateways that can accommodate high volume and velocity processing will win market share from traditional gateway airports. Not because the current gateways are not competitive, but the congestion in the city creates a disadvantage that the new gateway markets avoid. Growth in these new markets will be solid double-digit of sustained growth. For example, in Columbus, Ohio, IMS Worldwide. has successfully assisted the local air cargo stakeholders expand this industry sector with cargo volumes exceeding 70 percent in just two years. New air carriers, new global freight forwarders, and third-party logistics service providers (who also perform e-commerce activities for retailers) are driving airport capacity and new facilities expansion. At the Columbus Rickenbacker International Gateway, there will be demand for new on-ramp and beyond-the-ramp cargo facilities, as well as demand for new logistics, fulfillment, and distribution facilities, all driven by the increase in air cargo activities.