Business gets a warm reception in Anchorage

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Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport manager, Jim Szczesniak

With its geographic location, you may assume Alaska is unbearably cold but Jim Szczesniak insists it is warmer than you think.

The airport manager for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, who took over from John Parrott in January last year, says Alaska’s largest city is warmer than his native Chicago.

Like much of the industry, Anchorage has been affected by the global slowdown in air cargo, due to issues including the ongoing US-China trade tensions.

Szczesniak tells Air Cargo Week: “The number of aircraft is similar, but when looking at the volumes, freight has definitely seen a decline. The third quarter was down just over 2%. We are subject to what is occurring in global trade, this is definitely having an impact on us.”

China is not the only market on offer, Szczesniak says: “We are actually looking to new destinations to use Anchorage as a strategic location.”

Customers in Anchorage benefit from transfer rights not available elsewhere.

Szczesniak says: “The special transfer rights between carriers means you can fly from Delhi for example, transfer some cargo to the west coast, and send some to somewhere like New York or Miami. Those markets don’t always have their own flag carrier with freight operations so they depend on others to make the system work by using Anchorage to make things more efficient.”

Anchorage is looking forward, with Szczesniak saying: “We are not going to sit here, we actively promote new destinations. With 23 destinations, we are working with that network and the transfer rights, trying to add destinations. With new destinations we hope to keep the growth going.”

Around 80% of air cargo travelling between Asia and North America stops in Anchorage so the types of cargo are very varied.

From Alaska itself, seafood including salmon and crabs are popular. Fresh tanks have been sourced to look after live crabs destined for Asian markets.

Flowers are another product, Szczesniak adds: “In Alaska the growing season for flowers including Paeonies is the same as the wedding season. We also get a lot of perishables coming up from between the Americas for Latin America – Asia routes.”

Express operators like FedEx, UPS and DHL all use Anchorage. Szczesniak says: “They have hubs at the airport bringing flows from Asia, swapping cargo here to send to their mega hubs. It also works in reverse to swap cargo heading into multiple Asian markets.”

With Alaska’s interesting geography, Anchorage airport also acts as an important hub for the small communities.

Szczesniak comments: “Anchorage serves as a cargo hub for Alaska. It is a unique airport, when I look out of my window I can see DC-3s and Boeing 747s.”