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The current demand in air freight cargo and expedited international shipments are putting a heightened amount of pressure on the existing size and capabilities of airports in their present conditions. Could we be outgrowing physical airport real estate? If so, what could be done to efficiently reduce congestion and seam busting traffic flow, or lack thereof?

To accommodate increased fleet demand, major air hubs are having to reinvent the wheel. But in all actuality, they just need a bigger wheel. Unfortunately, expansion at this level takes time in an industry where time is both critical and a high valued commodity. Traffic flow efficiency is impending, but by what means?

Asia thinks the answer is airport expansion, while the Europeans take the opposing stance in proclaiming smarts over grander. Americans think a second-tier airport could alleviate the obstruction, whereas more efficient ground handling pushes the proverbial elephant through the straw for another.

Development will inevitably be generated from this increased cargo handling and simultaneously infrastructural changes will be financed. As a point of reference below, percentage increases in cargo traffic growth from three of the main air hubs in the United States show obvious indication of consistent influx:

  • LAX (Los Angeles, CA): 9.4% Increase

  • JFK (New York, NY): 5.9% Increase

  • O’Hare (Chicago, IL): 12.6%

Due to restrictive airport locations, increased capacity for air cargo substructure is exceedingly limited. Plausible initiatives are currently in place for some notable airports, but space shortage will not cease as an imminent problem as a result. This “situation could result in an Amsterdam Schiphol effect, meaning carriers could turn to other airports in order to more easily secure slots. Airports like Seattle (SEA), a good option for trans-Pacific routes, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG), an increasingly prominent option closer to the eastern seaboard, are both investing in their cargo infrastructures.” [Nina Chamlou, via The World of Airports: Don’t Fence Me In]

While airports can greatly benefit from a congested hub in the short term, they stand to lose greatly in the long term, especially if neighboring airports invest in expansion. Adapting to demand is essential to the future of air freight and the natural evolution of the industry in its entirety.

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