Heathrow reported its July passenger numbers this week, with an increase of 74% compared to July 2020, but an 80% decline compared to pre-pandemic levels in July 2019. While passenger numbers have suffered during the pandemic, cargo has fared much better, only 12% down on July 2019.
However, the Manchester Airport Group has seen cargo volumes exceed their 2019 level, and growing by up to 20% in recent months, while in Europe, Schiphol and Frankfurt cargo volumes have grown by 14% and 9% respectively.
So what is driving the air cargo performance? There are several factors at play…
There are implications for airports and the property industry with these changes. The requirement for investment in modernising and increasing warehouse capacity on airport will be challenging for revenue starved airports.
Secondly, the development of air cargo facilities off airport will come into direct competition with the surge in demand for road-based logistics operators.
Finally, runway capacity for cargo freighters will present a challenge when passengers finally return. Airports generate significantly more revenue from a passenger aircraft than a cargo freighter.
These challenges will drive innovation in airport business models as airports lock-in the gains in cargo demand. Among the many changes we will see in the air cargo sector, these are some I predict we will see in the short term: