Several U.S. airports that deal with freight saw increases in volume last year due to the fact that of big trade flows and increased dependence on pure freighter airplane due to the pandemic. Rickenbacker International Airport wasn’t among them.

It suffered a 7.7% contraction in throughput that authorities credit to shifting supply chain characteristics and market vagaries. However 2020 likewise brought brand-new consumers, products and opportunities that have placed the central Ohio airport for strong development this year and beyond.

2020 was a year of big swings for Rickenbacker Airport (LCK), which lies outside Columbus in the middle of a huge logistics cluster dotted with warehouse for Dog crate & Barrel, Amazon, Lululemon, Gap and other big brand names.

Traffic was light at the start of the year, a carryover from a weak airfreight market in 2019 and trade stress with China. Flights dried up at the start of the pandemic as factories abroad closed down and after that U.S. shops closed, which had an outsized effect because the cargo-centric airport is a retail-heavy destination. Cargo surged in Might, and set a record in June, as the previous Air Force base began getting imports of individual protective devices and other materials to assist fight the COVID break out.

The airport experienced a brief lull in the fall and then a big dive in traffic in the run-up to the holidays as factory and ocean-shipping backlogs led many shippers to switch to air. A decline in FedEx and UPS air tonnage likewise added to volume declining to 120,000 metric heaps, stated Sarah McQuaide, interactions and marketing manager at the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.

In spite of the slow start, worldwide all-cargo arrivals increased 4% to 997, consisting of 309 777-300 Extended Range passenger airplanes with freight in the cabin run by carriers such as Emirates. The emergency situation usage of guest airplane as mini-freighters was a two-edged sword for Rickenbacker and partly describes why more flights resulted in less cargo volume.

McQuaide stated some truck operators redeployed their freighter aircraft on more urgent worldwide paths for pandemic relief, however those were backfilled by the modified traveler airplane LCK is getting.

The removal from service of a lot of long-haul widebody flights was needed for airline companies to endure when travel need tanked, but they repurposed a part of their fleets for cargo when tight capability sent out freight rates through the roofing. The move helped airlines financially and carriers acquired access to more transportation choices. Although pure freighters can carry significantly more freight than jets in passenger configuration, utilizing the cabin for light boxes, including sometimes with seats removed, increased payloads per flight.

Airlines that started flying to Rickenbacker for the first time were Korean Air Cargo, Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways, McQuaide stated in an email.

Another positive advancement for the airport was a more varied item mix, with many brand-new electronic devices and automobile parts carriers leading the method. Numerous new logistics business likewise chartered airplane to bring goods to LCK.

” The first few months of 2021 are looking extremely favorable compared to 2020,” McQuaide stated.

Pharma facility

The airport authority also is diversifying into pharmaceuticals. On Wednesday, authorities announced plans to develop a $1.5 million pharmaceutical cold-storage center with assistance from a JobsOhio grant.

The grant will help support the redevelopment of existing air freight terminal space into a two-zone temperature-controlled center (refrigeration at 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for vaccines, rehabs and other life-science products for which there is increased need. The 9,600-square-foot storage facility, which will include office for U.S. Customs and Food and Drug Administration inspectors, will be the very first dedicated handling center for temperature-controlled pharmaceutical air freight deliveries in Ohio.

McQuaide said LCK handles some drugs shipped in active refrigerated containers, along with products that do not need freezer.

” The brand-new facility will enable us to broaden this industry and open brand-new chances for the airline companies and forwarders serving the pharma industry,” she stated.

It is expected to open in the 3rd quarter.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Carrier stories by Eric Kulisch.

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