Change is air cargo’s trump
In conversation with Jimmy Nares, Miami International Airport’s aviation marketing section chief.
Airports Council International has reported that 2021’s ten busiest airports worldwide were in the USA. Miami airport jumped from 24th a year earlier to 9th place in 2021. Four US airports also handled more freight than MIA (see page 13), but the latter’s 2 million t kept it at the top of the US rankings for international volumes. ITJ editor Andreas Haug visited the gateway recently to get the latest low-down.
Mr Nares, how did MIA fare in 2021?
2021 was phenomenal! We managed to set a new cargo throughput record of about 2.5 million t last year, which represented a plus of 17.9% vis-à-vis the previous twelve months – in which we’d already set a new record too. No less than 40 full-freighter operators contributed to these figures, with these airlines accounting for approximately 80% of our total volume. Belly-freight is also quite important, but in contrast to some other hubs it only accounts for about a fifth of our tonnage.
What about your specialised fields?
Pharma consignments also set a new record at Miami airport last year. The 19,700 t registered represented 20.5% more than in 2020. In terms of these shipments’ value, however, the figure stood at USD 6.65 billion, which is 78% higher than the previous year’s total. It isn’t as easy to put a concrete figure on the growth in the e-commerce segment, but we know that UPS and other integrated carriers at MIA have expanded their business. In November DHL Express finished the USD 78 million renovation of its hub; and FedEx Express completed the doubling of its platform to 26,200 m2 for USD 72 million in December.
MIA’s geographical situation alone isn’t enough though. What do you do for all of the links in the air cargo supply chain?
We market our solutions as ‘the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean’ – and back it up with 70 scheduled flights and almost 1,100 weekly links to and from the region. The South American freight market was our most important market by far last year, accounting for 933,000 t of goods worth USD 34.3 billion. It was followed by Central America (133,000 t; USD 6.4 billion). Weightwise these were followed by Europe (92,000 t) and Asia (58,000 t); these goods were more valuable, however (USD 9.9 and 11.7 billion respectively).
We’re always on the lookout for new business opportunities. We’re the leading US hub for perishables – we handle 91% of all flower imports into the country, for example. Now we’ve entered into a cooperation agreement with Brussels airport, with whom we already have a pharmaceuticals partnership, and in this context we held our first joint ‘Fresh & Flower Forum’ at the last Air Cargo Americas trade fair – which met with a great response from our customers.
What about east–west traffic?
Before the pandemic broke out, 25 trans-Atlantic routes used to land here. Co-loaded capacities are more important in this trade, so it was harder hit by the pandemic. But now business is returning again – including LOT Polish Airlines and Royal Air Maroc. Five freighter operators also link MIA to four markets in Asia, an interesting market that we’d like to develop more.
We’ve looked into e-commerce and perishables. How are other categories faring?
Our strong categories include industrial machinery, aircraft and auto parts, electronic and telecommunication equipment, remained vigorous in 2021. We also want to attract players to our foreign-trade zone, which allows users to defer, reduce, or eliminate customs duties by operating at MIA.
Many major airports are suffering from congestion these days. Is Miami?
No, not really. On the inbound side this is because we’re the US airport with the highest number of federal authorities by far carrying out on-site inspections, which in turn is because perishables make up 76% of our volume. On top of this MIA is also a key transit station – 47% of all cargo here just passes through the airport. I don’t know how the world economy will develop, but we’ve started strongly and can expect this year’s results to be as good as 2021’s.
You’ve worked for Miami-Dade County for 20 years and for its aviation unit for six. What makes airfreight attractive?
Constant change. Who expected us to play a major role in the trade in microchips? The value of chips imported through MIA has grown by 2,600% since 2020 (USD 160 million to 4.31 billion). We’re ready for change. We’re approaching the limits of our growth. Our planned ‘Vertically Integrated Cargo Community’ will roughly double our capacity – then we can meet forecasted growth for 15–20 years.