Although there were some tactical cancellations earlier in the year by carriers operating freighters into DFW, the schedule has returned to normal and the airport is anticipating a big increase in cargo volume as businesses return to work and supply chains begin restocking inventory, says John Ackerman, executive vice president of global strategy and development at DFW Airport
What have been the biggest challenges?
The safety and security of our employees, partners, and customers is the highest priority for DFW Airport. We are committed to keeping everybody across the airport ecosystem updated and informed related to orders and recommendations issued in response to COVID-19. DFW is ensuring up to date information from the CDC and local health authorities is being communicated to support cargo logistics companies in these difficult times. DFW Airport has held regular webinars with the DFW Cargo Community to ensure they have up to date information on airport changes as well as CDC and other updates.
How have you responded to these challenges?
We are talking regularly with our partners here at DFW Airport to ensure they are getting the support from our team to keep their business moving forward. Our cargo team has increased outreach efforts, albeit virtually, to all our cargo stakeholders across the cargo ecosystem including airlines, freight forwarders, trucking companies, GHAs and other 3PLs, to reinforce our support and illustrate we are all in this crisis together. Cargo operations at DFW are robust in this challenging time, driven by the global impact that COVID-19 is having on the worlds’ supply chains. Carriers are adjusting capacity and schedules based on demand. We have seen an increase in frequency from freighter operators and the use of passenger planes for cargo charter operation. We anticipate additional ad hoc freighter charters operations to support getting the global supply chains back up and running.
Has there been any significant cooperation between stakeholders?
We have always had close working relationships with all of our stakeholders in the DFW Airport cargo community. We have held regular conference calls – webinars with the cargo community to keep them updated throughout this time. Open communication has been key to working together to ensure that we make DFW Airport the ideal cargo gateway in North America.
What challenges and opportunities have been presented by the introduction of cargo-only passenger aircraft services, and/or increased numbers of freighter aircraft?
While supply chains have been disrupted, DFW is seeing increased capacity and volumes from freighter operators as well as from airlines such as AA, British Airways, Korean Air and Japan Airlines, who are using passenger aircraft to transport cargo. We are seeing a large number of cargo operations that contain PPE and medical equipment along with our usual shipments of perishables, pharmaceuticals, and technology equipment.
Have most or all strategic initiatives had to go on hold?
We are currently undergoing a large-scale investment in our physical cargo infrastructure and a digital transformation at DFW Airport. For cargo specifically, we have been piloting Nallian’s cargo cloud technology. Digitisation is very important due to the increase efficiencies and being able to process cargo through our facilities quicker and with more transparency throughout the supply chain.
Across the airport, we will review some plans, and will move forward a number of projects. The four additional gates for Terminal D will be completed and open in 2121. Work on reconstructing Runway 18R and other airfield work will move forward, as will completion of the construction of our new Integrated Operations Centre. These projects are important for the airport, but they also are important for the region. They account for thousands of jobs, and those jobs are as vital as the projects they support.
What levels of cargo traffic volumes is the airport seeing currently compared with last year?
We are pleased with our cargo volumes, given the COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions. February cargo was down just 2% and March was down 4.4%, and we continue to see positive results for the year – mainly driven by additional freighter services and airlines operating their passenger aircraft as cargo-only flights. The latest numbers can be found here: https://dfwairport.com/stats/index.php
What preparations do you have in place for volumes returning to more normal levels as restrictions are eased?
At this time, it’s business as usual for our cargo operations at DFW Airport. We continue to see a large amount of critical supplies and perishables coming through the airport. There were some tactical cancellations earlier in the year by carriers operating freighters into DFW, but the schedule has resumed to normal. We anticipate a big increase in cargo volume in the near future as businesses begin to return to work and supply chains begin restocking inventory. Even though there will be a gradual return to brick and mortar retail sales, we are anticipating continued growth in e-commerce sales, and are prepared to accommodate increased volumes of international e-commerce shipments at DFW. This should have a positive impact on freighter demand as cargo demand is anticipated to exceed capacity in the market.
Do you have any other comments or observations about the current challenging environment?
Cargo plays an important role at DFW Airport, and we are pleased to continue supporting the worldwide effort to keep supply chains moving through our world class cargo facilities.