While 2020 was a record year for freighters and for Liege Airport, VP commercial Steven Verhasselt hopes for everyone’s sake that the airport’s health hub can be turned back into a passenger terminal soon. But the airport’s ready for that not to happen
When first assessing the potential impact of the Covid pandemic for Liege Airport, in February 2020, I was asked by my colleagues to be realistic. My assessment was that passenger flights would come to an end, belly capacity would disappear, and the freighter market in LGG would flourish. I was told to not be too optimistic at that time. Fact was that I was optimistic for the airport, but pessimistic for the aviation industry and for our lifestyle. Unfortunately, I was right. By June, budgets were revised; three months later, they were thrown from the window. 2020 was a record year for freighters, for Liege Airport. And still…
I hope that 2021 will be the back-to-normal year. Our budget for 2021 has been based on the 2020 budget, not on the 2020 actual numbers. In a back-to-normal year, we still look for growth.
These have been exciting times in Liege, with projects completed with a little delay. The AirBridgeCargo hub in a dedicated WFS operated warehouse is fully operational. The Challenge Airlines hub, in a dedicated LACHS operated warehouse, is taking off. That will create great advantages for the Challenge Group, and additional third party handling capacity at Lachs in Liege South.
Later in 2021, phase 1 of the Cainiao Smart Logistics hub will be ready for operations after summer, and completely up and running for 11.11 Alibaba E-commerce festival. All that, while of course not forgetting all our partners who are in Liege already. The LGG Cargo Community, our integrator, all the airlines, handlers, freight forwarders, service suppliers, air freight truckers, and all the others will get all the support we can give. The airport infrastructure is more than runways and parking bays; we are working to develop access to the airport, 2nd and 3rd line warehousing, as well as digital infrastructure. On top of that, we want to continue cooperating with our colleagues worldwide: from Bangkok to Nairobi, from Pittsburgh to Hangzhou, we reach out for more collaboration.
All that in the back-to-normal year. In order to get there, we are pitching in, in fighting the virus and reaching the back to normal. The first shipments of vaccines have been handled in LGG with a great deal of care and attention. LGG has already had vaccine shipments from two pharma customers, different freight forwarders, handlers and airlines to and from different destinations. The cargo volumes in LGG in this are not important; reaching the final destination, and getting as many people as possible vaccinated is what counts.
On a local level, the passenger terminal has been turned into a health hub – a testing centre and hopefully sooner than later vaccination centre, for staff, crews and the local population; a vaccine logistics centre for shippers and freight forwarders monitoring vaccine shipments.
We sure hope the terminal can be used in 2022 for the return of passenger flights, the next edition of WeCargo, and our No Curfew terminal party for all the staff working on Liege Airport.