Stansted Airport aiming to play a bigger freight role

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Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport is a key gateway for air cargo into the London region and its operator the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) believes it can play an even wider role.

MAG head of cargo and business aviation, Conan Busby feels Stansted is well established as London’s “premier freighter airport” and this is unlikely to change, but he calls on the UK Government to consider the wider UK aviation strategy to ensure it remains able to support future demand.

He says there are plenty of opportunities for Stansted, saying: “It has the potential to support substantial belly cargo demand as it secures new long-haul passenger services in the future, and in the meantime there remains capacity to welcome new freighter operators and indeed growth from our existing customers.

“The UK is a dynamic market and given the fantastic propositions of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, it is likely demand for freighters will spread into regions in the future.”

Busby says Stansted’s volumes have been on a steady five per cent growth trajectory since the beginning of 2015 when volumes sat at 231,000 tonnes and in September he expects volume to exceed 260,000 tonnes.

“More importantly, the diversity of Stansted’s customer base has increased to represent a global portfolio of world-class cargo airlines, with recent additions including CargologicAir’s new Mexico service, Etihad Cargo and Icelandair Cargo,” he adds.

All markets are performing well and the strongest are China driven by China Southern while Cargolux has commenced weekly flights from Zhengzhou, which Busby says geographically compliments the direct Chinese capacity available into the UK.

He says perishable trade lanes continue to show growth and MAG is excited to be approaching the peak season in the coming weeks. The express sector is also performing well, driven by improving macro-economic factors and e-commerce.

Perishables is the stand-out vertical: “We are confident this will continue to grow – both in terms of consumer demand but also as e-commerce drives demand for direct shipments rather than via European hub airports,” Busby notes.

He adds: “The UK is already one of Kenya’s largest export markets, and this could grow if direct shipments become a higher priority as vendors seek product quality and speed to market.”

More routes are definitely on the radar and Busby says MAG is hopeful both belly and maindeck cargo, can be developed across MAG’s airports to satisfy passengers and UK PLC.

He explains: “Given the congestion and lack of capacity in the South East there is an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of point to point services including shortened supply chains, reduced road traffic miles for passengers, and more investment into the regions.”

Busby is sure UK volumes will grow in future due to capacity constraints in and outside of the UK, adding: “Stansted has potential to meet up to half of London’s capacity shortfall over the next few years, and cargo will contribute towards this growth.”