PIT witnesses double digit growth in its cargo volumes

Published: Monday, February 14, 2022

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) saw its cargo volumes increase by double-digit percentage levels last year as demand soared and capacity constraints hit rival airports.

The airport in Pennsylvania, US handled around 113,000 tons last year, which is an increase of 30% compared with 2020 and 26% against 2019.

“Demand for air cargo soared amid global supply chain disruptions,” the airport said in a press release, adding that its “aggressive cargo strategy – set in motion prior to the pandemic – allowed it to capitalize during the past two years as capacity constraints piled up at major US gateways”.

The airport said that traditional cargo gateways are “often swamped”, creating a backlog that keeps cargo sitting for days waiting to be processed or available for delivery.

“Every minute that cargo isn’t being moved to its final destination incurs further expenses,” PIT said.

Nate Hankinson, president of Pittsburgh-based NJH Consulting, said, “The Airport Authority has put a lot of effort into a long-term solution for inbound and outbound airfreight – to really build a product that is different than what’s offered at the major air hubs in the US to offer quicker turn times, quicker to market.”

Hankinson said the airport’s success comes from partnering with the “regional logistics ecosystem”, such as trucking companies, ground handlers, local warehousing, container freight stations and third-party logistics providers.

Marc Schlossberg, executive vice president of air cargo & sales/marketing for Unique Logistics, said that it had shipped thousands of pounds of fashion apparel and high-tech products through PIT in the past year on a variety of international airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.

“What we’re seeing is the labor issues and challenges surrounding lack of capacity at terminals as well as the additional labor required to manage passenger freighters has driven operations to secondary airports like PIT because the major gateways can’t handle the requirements,” Schlossberg said. “The labor shortage is a problem in places like JFK and as a result it’s opened up opportunities for me to divert aircraft away from JFK or Chicago or L.A.”

The airport has also benefited from a new airline customer: Amazon Air started air cargo services to PIT in May.

Further expansion is on the cards. In 2019, the US Department of Transportation awarded PIT an $18.9m grant to support the construction of a 75,000 sq ft cargo facility, Cargo 4.

The building will feature 18 loading docks for trucks; most will come with dock levelers while others will be used specifically for Unit Loading Devices (ULDs). Flatbed trucks will be able to access the interior of the warehouse.