Heathrow Airport looks set for cargo growth in the years ahead if it gets a 3rd runway built and UK exports grow as forecasted by some due to the UK leaving the European
The UK hub’s head of cargo, Nick Platts spoke to Air Cargo Week about what Heathrow is focusing on operationally in 2017, future plans and how business is.
Justin Burns, ACW: How would you sum up Heathrow’s air cargo performance in 2016
Platts: 2016 was a successful year with results above expectations. Heathrow saw 1.54 million tonnes – up three per cent up on 2015.
Justin Burns, ACW: What trade lanes did you see the strongest growth in?
Platts: At the regional level Heathrow saw growth year-on-year in tonnage within Europe (+9 per cent), on South Asia routes (+9 per cent) and the Middle East/Central Asia (+9 per cent). Latin America also grew by six per cent.
Justin Burns, ACW: What are your focus areas to improve your operations and grow further in 2017?
Platts: This year Heathrow is focused on reducing the traffic congestion in the cargo area, installing stillage in the cargo area and creating an area airside for transiting freight. At the same time, we will work closely with the expansion team to ensure the needs of our cargo customers are clearly understood so we are able to deliver our strategic programme through to 2025.
Justin Burns, ACW: What markets do you expect to grow strongly this year?
Platts: We expect to see continued growth in the Europe-Asia flow, and in the Middle East and Oceania markets. If poor weather continues to impact European food production, then we could also see a bounce in food from Africa and Latin America as part of the continued growth in perishables. As there is a level of uncertainty surrounding Transatlantic trade it is challenging to accurately predict growth levels for that region.
Justin Burns, ACW: How are you going to grow in 2017?
Platts: Our core focus is to make Heathrow more efficient and predictable. With our strong punctuality figures over the last 12 months set to improve further, we will continue to work with the cargo area landlord, along with our operational colleagues to explore what else we can do to reduce throughput times.
Justin Burns, ACW: AirBridgeCargo (ABC) Airlines started a twice-weekly freighter from LHR to Moscow in November. Are you looking to operate more freighters in the future?
Platts: ABC has demonstrated Heathrow can absorb some additional freighters without impacting runway operations. Heathrow is always looking for ways to accommodate additional freighters within the operational constraints we have. There are a few limited opportunities in the schedule we could fill – especially the winter schedule from mid-October to the end of March. Given the scarcity of slots, this is not possible around passenger peak times. We will continue to talk to our network and capacity planners about the benefits of more freighters.
Justin Burns, ACW: Do you think Brexit provides a great opportunity for air cargo growth at Heathrow?
Platts: Heathrow will be an essential part of the Government’s Global Britain strategy. We are already looking at ways we can take advantage of new export and import opportunities, but it will largely depend on the trade relationships put in place.
Justin Burns, ACW: Will a 3rd runway give a significant boost to air cargo at Heathrow?
Platts: Absolutely yes. By 2040, Heathrow are aiming to double cargo volumes (based on 2015 figures). More importantly though, Heathrow will open up additional long-haul routes and increase frequency on the constrained routes we have today – both of which will strengthen UK trade.
Justin Burns, ACW: Do you work with other hubs on cargo?
Platts: Heathrow already has a strategic partnership with Hong Kong and I see great growth potential in further partnerships. Heathrow works closely with HK and we are exploring ways to work with them and learn from them. We are exploring how we might collaborate to make our trade lane more efficient.
In late 2015 the Cargo Service Quality index was set up at Heathrow with the aim to encourage improvement in the quality of the airport system as a whole by looking at eight measures across safety, quality and performance. To date, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt and Vienna are involved, with interest being shown by Paris CDG.
The cargo teams from these key EU airports are working well together and share a passion for driving quality improvements to customers. We have agreed KPIs we believe apply at all our airports so we will be able to benchmark against each other.