Anchorage Airport has seen an increase in freight in 2020 – will this stay?
Anchorage experienced a decline in passenger transport in 2020. However, one point that has shone for the airport, and which helps give it a place in the world, is its position as a cargo transfer point for interstate flights. United and Asia. After seeing record freight tonnage in 2020, Simple Flying spoke to ANC Airport Director Jim Szczesniak about freight growth in 2020 and what the future may hold.
Anchorage saw significant freight traffic in 2020
According to data from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), more than 3.48 million tonnes of air cargo passed through the airport in 2020. This is a whopping 16% increase by compared to the record volumes recorded by the airport in 2019.
Anchorage is a major air cargo transfer hub between North America and Asia. The airport sees a wide variety of cargo operations, but in 2020 there was a change in the type of cargo the airport was flying. The management of pharmaceuticals and PPE at the airport has increased considerably.
Much of the airport’s growth has also come from increasing air cargo operations to cover lost air cargo capacity that would normally fly in the hold of passenger aircraft. Another round of air freight growth has come from maritime traffic, which declined during the pandemic.
Manage freight in 2020
With the increase in cargo operations, Anchorage was able to successfully handle the new flights, as Szczesniak explained:
âSo for our traditional infrastructure where we manage cargo planes, we hit peak times where all of our parking spaces were full, but we were able to manage that by using some of the vacant passenger infrastructure to be able to handle that. If we ran out of our traditional cargo parking spots, we would have the option of parking them at some of the terminal gates to make it work. “
The huge An-225 made several stops in Anchorage during the pandemic.
Antonov 225 taking off from the ANC. https://t.co/wGVX6eBa5g
– Anchorage Airport (@ANCairport) May 1, 2020
Even though this was a huge and rare sight, Anchorage is well known for having different types of planes. Speaking about the An-225 and the diversity of aircraft, Mr. Szczesniak explained the following:
âThis plane, because it’s so rare, it’s pretty cool when you see it in person. It’s a special day for the airport when it passes. But our airport on a normal day, I have DC-3 DC-6s, I have this Dash 8 freighter on the taxiway just behind them, I have the Antonov, the An-124s are here, and then I have the Dreamlifter which runs regularly.
Where is 2021 going?
According to Szczesniak, Anchorage expects to see relatively similar freight volumes in 2021 to those in 2020:
âI think it’ll probably be pretty much the same, but the big question mark over there. this is ultimately what happens with maritime traffic. One of the logistics consulting firms did an analysis that if air freight only took 1% of [cargo] of the sea [transport], that would be a 16% increase for air freight.
Ships carry a lot of cargo, and in general, most of the large ships that travel around the world can carry larger and heavier cargo than air cargo. However, some goods and cargoes are typically carried on ships, but could migrate to air cargo operations.
Maritime traffic is not 100% restored. There are still concerns about supply chain issues, the need for infrastructure redevelopment in ports and other factors that may affect more cargo remaining in the shipping lanes compared to when switching to air freight.
There’s another layer to the air freight element, and that’s e-commerce:
âTraditionally you would say, ‘Hey, you’re going to see this peak come in because of the pandemic, and then it’s going to stabilize and come back to a more normal level. [levels]. ‘ But the problem is that e-commerce is accelerating at such a rapid rate that the expected traditional low might not be there due to the fact that e-commerce will only fill this gap. We are optimistic about air freight in the future.
So, at the end of the day, Anchorage has had a great 2020, and he’s hoping 2021 goes in that same vein. In 2020, the ANC had the opportunity to strengthen its position in the crisis. Mr Szczesniak discussed the position the airport now finds itself in after the crisis:
âI think it gave us the opportunity to strengthen our position. When to have that ability to pretend you’re the busiest airport in the world in certain places. People understand that during a pandemic our report held up very well, and what we saw is that a lot of carriers took that risk and bet on a new destination. Before where they would try to get all their cargo through Shanghai, we would see these direct flights from Hefei and Chengdu and all kinds of different Chinese and Asian gateways going through our airport.
Anchorage has a very good chance of being able to hang on to its king cargo position. However, it will once again have to contend with changing market conditions and a post-crisis world, including with the prospect of a more international service – potentially to Asia.
What do you think the future holds for Anchorage from a freight perspective? Let us know in the comments!