T I O N International Trade
Alaska’s International Airport
Serving Europe, Asia,
and North America,
Anchorage airport plays
vital role in air cargo
By Greg Wolf
Geography can be either a blessing or a curse. In the case of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, it
is very much a blessing. Poised nearly equi-
distant between Europe, Asia, and North
America, the airport plays a vital role in the
global air cargo business. The state-owned
airport is located within 9. 5 hours of 90 per-
cent of the industrialized world and serves
as the primary link for carriers operating
trans-Pacific flights between cities in Asia
and North America. It is estimated that ap-
proximately 80 percent of all cargo flights
operating across the Pacific make a “tech-
nical stop” at Anchorage to refuel, change
crews, and (in some cases) to transfer cargo.
This strategic location led both FedEx and
UPS to locate hubs at the airport to support
their extensive international operations. The
airport continues to be one of the busiest
in the world for cargo carriers. It currently
ranks as the fourth largest cargo airport in
the world and second largest in the United
States. Internationally, it ranks only behind
Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Incheon (South
Korea). Domestically, only Memphis, home
to FedEx’s major hub, sees more cargo traf-
fic. Each week, the airport handles nearly 500
landings of wide-bodied cargo freighters.
The primary advantage for the cargo carriers to make stops at Anchorage is that they
can maximize their payload to fuel ratio.
In other words, by being able to carry more
cargo and less fuel, they can operate with
more efficiency and greater profitably. A carrier is able to transport an additional 100,000
pounds of revenue cargo by making a fuel
stop in Anchorage. It’s a simple, but powerful, incentive to make use of the Anchorage
stopover. Another advantage is Anchorage’s
unique cargo transfer authorities granted to
it by the US Department of Transportation.
These expanded cargo transfer rights make
Anchorage extremely flexible for cargo airlines to make use of time on the ground refueling to also carry out transfers between their
own planes and those of other carriers.
These transfers rights include “on-line”
transfers between a carrier’s own aircraft;
“inter-line” transfers between one carrier
and another carrier; “co-mingling” of US and
non-US cargo; and “change-of-gauge” transfers from, for example, a wide-bodied freighter aircraft to one or more smaller aircraft flying to multiple destinations from Anchorage.
One of the growth engines for cargo activ-
ity at the airport is the ongoing expansion of
trade between the United States and China.
In addition to FedEx, UPS, and several oth-
er major US all-cargo airlines, a number of
mainland China and Hong Kong-based car-
riers also operate flights between Chinese
and American cities via Anchorage. These
Chinese carriers include Air China, China
Cargo Airlines, China Southern Airlines,
Yangtze River Express, and Cathay Pacific.
Connecting other Asian cities to US points
via Anchorage are cargo carriers including
Korean Air, Eva Air (Taiwan), Singapore
Airlines, Asiana Airlines (Korea), and Nip-
pon Cargo Airlines (Japan).
For Alaska, and for Anchorage, the success
of the airport’s international cargo operations
is significant. From a historical perspective,
success with cargo has helped offset the loss
of international passenger operations that, at
one time, enabled Anchorage to be known as
the “Air Crossroads of the World”. The airport
still maintains some international passen-
ger operations, of course, but these are now
almost always summer seasonal service op-
erations. These carriers include Condor, Japan
Airlines, Iceland Air, Air Canada, and Yakutia
Air. Cargo operations are clearly the bread-
winner these days. The airport continually
works to support current cargo customers and
to recruit others that may wish to enter the
Anchorage market. They meet regularly with
existing customers and make presentations at
international air cargo conferences to high-
light the airport’s advantages and attributes.
The airport, overall, including both domestic and international passenger and cargo
operations, is a major driver of the Anchorage
economy. It is estimated that one in ten jobs
in the Anchorage area are a result of business
activity generated at the airport, and many
local companies do business with the airport
and with the airlines and service companies
operating at the airport.
One of the goals of the airport, as well as
the Anchorage community, is the attraction of
A China Cargo Airlines carrier stops over at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.