Ted Steven’s Airport Manager Excited About Future Of Air Cargo

Nearly a billion pounds of cargo landed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in 2012. That’s the equivalent to about 500 thousand Volkswagen beetles. And the guy who manages it all?

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“My name is John Parrott. I am the airport manager at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.”

Currently, Anchorage International Airport is the fourth busiest cargo airport in the world. The airport was the third busiest in the world until the 2008 world financial crisis. The crisis affected supply and demand in the US and Europe. The reduced demand for consumer goods from Asia caused a drop in cargo flights through Anchorage. A majority of the cargo flights come from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Even with the reduced cargo flights, Anchorage is still an important refueling stop for cargo planes, with 500 wide bodied cargo planes landing at the airport every week:

“Now as a comparison the city and business community of Portland a few years ago came up with a fairly nice financial incentive program. They were very happy to once again reestablish international cargo traffic out of the Portland airport with three flights a week. Uh, that was a success to them. We currently enjoy about 500 flights a week,”Parrott said.

That translates into about 72 cargo planes landing every twenty-four hours.

The majority of the transport cargo comes from Asian countries. Parrott says Anchorage is strategically located between Asia and the lower 48. Most wide-body cargo planes carry only enough fuel to travel 4,000 miles. For Asian products to reach the east coast, cargo planes have to travel twice that distance.

“…but Alaska exists in-between. So, to effectively utilize these aircraft all over the world in all markets, you need an airplane that will go about 4,000 miles and works all over the globe as long as we are here as a fueling stop,” Parrott said.

Parrott is excited about the cargo growth opportunities in Anchorage for a process called cargo-transfer. That allows foreign carriers to exchange cargo among their own fleet or to transfer cargo among different carriers while on US soil. Until 2004, it was illegal in the U-S, but that year an amendment sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens allowed for cargo transfer in Hawaii and Alaska.

“Cabotage is where a foreign carrier carries cargo between two cities in another country. Normally a foreign carrier could not load cargo say in Seattle and fly it to New York.  Those rights are preserved for a US flag carrier,” Parrott said.

With only two U-S states using this unique process, Parrott says it is difficult to convince multiple carriers to share their profits. But he believes cargo-transfer will eventually help Ted Stevens expand its cargo development.