Recent years have been nerve-wracking for Belgium’s Liège Airport, Neil Madden writes.
One of Europe’s most cargo-friendly airports was heavily dependent on Dutch express operator TNT, at one point accounting for 2,000 of 3,500 jobs.
But the takeover of TNT Express by Fedex and the acquisition of TNT Airways by ASL Aviation raised concerns over whether the American integrator would maintain Liège as a full hub given that it runs established hubs at Paris CDG and Cologne.
However, some reassuring moves were made last year. In April Fedex began a flight linking Liège to the FedEx Express hub in Memphis on a round the world service that takes in Shanghai, Seattle and Anchorage.
Prior to the takeover, TNT had planned a €70 million renovation of its sorting centre. Fedex has not just stuck with that investment, but boosted it with a further €30 million.
While the commitment of Fedex to the hub has been the big news of the past year, Liege is not resting on its laurels. Tonnage handled at the airport set an all-time record of 717,000 tonnes in 2017, 8.5 percent up on the previous year.
Two new airlines – Air China Cargo and AirBridgeCargo – started services, while in February this year they were joined by a weekly Turkish Cargo A330-200F service flying between Istanbul and Liège. The main cargo is perishables destined for markets in Western Europe.
The airport itself is investing to support the growth of forwarders and handlers. “One 6,000 square metres cargo hall is coming into operation, and more than 20,000 square metres will soon be built, as well as four new parking stands for large aircraft,” says airport CEO Luc Partoune.
“It represents a major investment of more than €50 million creating, as a result, several hundred jobs.”