‘Location will win out against cargo hub competition from other US airports.’
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has topped Chicago O’Hare International Airport as the nation’s busiest for takeoffs and landings. In 2005 Hartsfield had 980,197 takeoffs and landings compared to O’Hare’s 972,246. This amount of take offs and landings also mean the two airports are also considered the world’s two busiest airports. Even though Hartsfield overtook O’Hare in 2005, Chicago area air cargo professionals still see the air cargo future as bright for O’Hare.
‘Since Chicago is centrally located, you can get anywhere from here,’ says Bob Raney, President and CEO of H.F. Long & Associates, an Aeroceanetwork member in the Chicago area, ‘With the airport and rail hubs, it’s possible to send almost anything anywhere. In addition Chicago is as good, or better, of a cross-roads as New York or Los Angeles, but, without the ‘attitudes’ of either port.’
Mike Oslansky, Manager of Cargo Product Development at United Airlines agrees. ‘Chicago is a ‘natural’ transportation hub because of its central location within the United States,’ said Mike. ‘Rail, trucking, and airline companies see it as a natural point to converge massive amounts of goods and passengers for deconsolidation and reconsolidation purposes.’ Oslansky went on to explain that in terms of air cargo, Chicago is additionally unique because it is the only US airport which serves as a hub for two major air carriers, United and American. ‘This provides users with a greater choice and service to virtually any business market in the world,’ Mike explained. O’Hare has a strong international airline presence with flights to more than 60 foreign destinations.
Congestion due to Chicago’s location has worked against O’Hare’s reputation due to O’Hare’s high volume and crowded schedule which have often caused cancellations and long delays affecting air cargo. Official reports have ranked O’Hare as the least punctual airport in the United States based on percentage of delayed flights. But this has not seemed to hurt the airport’s recent overall growth.
‘Over the last ten years, Chicago has developed into a major international consolidation airport,’ says Mike Oslansky, ‘We are seeing increasing use of Chicago as an overflow gateway for East and West Coast cities. Particularly for perishable cargo going to Europe from California. United has seen 20-30% increases in its international volume since 2002.’
Chicago area leaders have plans to commit $6 billion in capital investment redesign the airport’s runway layout and add a new western terminal complex. This would raise the airport’s capacity and decreasing delays by an estimated 79%. Also, hub airlines have also recently agreed to modify their schedules to help reduce congestion caused by clustered arrivals and departures. This is good news for cargo.
Bob Raney sees O’Hare’s cargo future as nothing but bright. Besides Atlanta Hartsfield Raney say importers and exporters perceive New York and Los Angeles as O’Hare’s main competition, but Bob Raney believes that Chicago is in a strong position for future growth compared to the others. ‘I think that as importers and exporters continue to pinch those pennies, there will be less and less incentive to not use Chicago,’ says Raney, ‘From a cost and ROI standpoint, we are head and shoulders above other US ports.’