Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport has big cargo plans and is building a new cool chain facility along with working on gaining the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) CEIV Pharma certification.
The gateway’s executive vice president for global strategy and development, John Ackerman (pictured below) spoke to Air Cargo Week at IATA’s World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi. He says DFW has for too long just been an “after thought ” as an air cargo option in the US and is looking to change that perception.
“We are starting kind of from the ground floor as two years ago we had no cargo strategy. A lot of US airports just take whatever cargo turns up, passengers are the focus, but we looked at the airport and half of the economic impact is cargo at DFW,” Ackerman says.
DFW is the fifth busiest US cargo hub not including Memphis, Anchorage and Louisville, behind Miami, Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Chicago. In 2016, it handled 794,000 tonnes, up eight per cent on 2015 and Ackerman says tonnage was flat until a year and a half ago until it started focusing on freight, and it is on track to grow further in 2017.
He says a big part of growing is having the lift and it has welcomed three cargo carriers this year in the shape of Qantas Freight, Qatar Airways Cargo and Air Canada Cargo.
“The other thing we identified in talking to customers was we were lacking a proper cool chain facility for perishables and Dallas can get hot so that is a big problem. By this summer (June/July) we will have one and our board has approved us investing from the airport’s capital and we are partnering with an existing cool chain operator,” Ackerman explains.
The state-of-the-art cool facility will cover 4,000 square metres for the main facility, and include a 1,500 square metre chilled area for perishables, and other cool chain cargo and have multi-temperature zones.
It is to be built in an existing structure so will cut the costs down. DFW is investing $2 million, and the operator $1 million. DFW is the hub of American Airlines Cargo, and is expecting the carrier to move much cool chain through the new facility.
Ackerman says it is also taking the community approach to getting CEIV Pharma certified: “There are not a lot of airports in the US that have that and we have got commitments from partners on the handling and airline side – and soon after opening the new cool chain facility we will be a CEIV certified community.”
DFW is aiming to be the bridge for cargo between the Americas and Asia, and long-term Ackerman say the goal of DFW is to “own” the Asia to Latin America trade lane. “Many airports in the US over the last 20 years have looked at Miami and said al I have to do is to take half of Miami’s volumes that will be enough for me, but there are a long list of airports that have failed and Dallas was on that about 15 years ago.
“For connecting Asia and LATAM we are talking about transshipment being the gateway to connect those as there really is nothing direct going from LATAM to Asia and it makes sense to go through the US so that is what we are after.”
The automotive sector is another area of opportunity and a key target sector Ackerman notes: “The other thing we are big in is there has been a lot of investment in northern Mexico in automotive manufacturing and a lot of those parts are trucked to Dallas and then flown out of DFW. We own that lane so that is a big part of our strategy. We are taking advantage of that and have seen a big uptick in that sector.”
The future is certainly bright at DFW and it looks a safe bet to be the next hub to be handling more than one million tonnes.