Cargo continues to shift to the Gulf

The shift of cargo traffic to the big hubs of the Middle East continues.

By early February, many of the world’s big cargo airports had reported their 2014 performance, generally appearing to confirm what most of us already knew or suspected – that worldwide air freight demand growth had returned to the “old normal.” Which is to say, growth averaging around 5% to 6%, with all the usual suspects showing up in the usual order.

Hong Kong and Shanghai saw growth of 6.0% and 7.3%, respectively, and posted new tonnage records, with HKG handling 4.4 million tonnes and Shanghai’s two big airports handling 3.6 million tonnes. Lining up behind them were, in order, Frankfurt (FRA, 2.16 million tonnes), Los Angeles (LAX, 1.8 million), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS, 1.6 million), and London Heathrow (LHR, 1.5 million).

One exception to the general pattern of modest growth was Dubai International (DXB), which, oddly, reported its 2014 handle down 3.1% to 2.4 million tonnes. But this decline came with a caveat: In early 2014 Dubai Airports, DXB’s operator, required all freighter aircraft to operate out of the new Al Maktoum International (DWC, generally known as Dubai World Central) just down the road. Given the massive amount of cargo carried in the bellies of the widebody passenger aircraft operating through DXB, we wondered just how much of an impact the shift of main-deck freight to DWC would have.

Today we have the answer: a really big impact. Adding up the cargo volume of the two airports, it is clear that far from Dubai seeing the same kind of modest growth reported by the other big players, it saw a huge 18% increase.

And this mirrors a similar 17% increase at nearby Abu Dhabi (AUH), indicating that there is no slowing of the trend of the Middle East increasingly becoming a new center of gravity for the world’s cargo.

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