Hong Kong International returns to the cargo top spot in 2021

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Hong Kong International Airport is the busiest cargo airport in the world, according to new data.

Airports Council International (ACI) World’s data shows Hong Kong achieved just over 5m metric tonnes of cargo in 2021, up 12.5% since 2020 and up 4.5% since 2019.

Memphis International Airport in second place reached 4.5m metric tonnes with a  -2.9% drop in cargo versus 2020 and up 3.6% since 2019.

This was followed by Shanghai Pudong International Airport achieving 4m metric tonnes, up 8% since 2020 and up 9.6% since 2019.

The other top 10 airports for cargo in ranking order are Anchorage in Alaska, US; Incheon in South Korea; Louisville in Kentucky, US; Taipei in Taiwan; Los Angeles in California, US; Tokyo in Japan; and Doha in Qatar.


Hong Kong is also the top airport for international freight (not including mail or parcels) with just under 5m metric tonnes, up 12.8% versus 2020 and up 6% versus 2019.

The international rankings differ from the overall figure, with Incheon taking second place. The airport saw 3.3m metric tonnes in 2021, up 18.6% versus 2020 and up 22.9% versus 2019.

Shanghai Pudong was in third place with 3.2m metric tonnes, up 9.9% since 2020 and up 14.9% since 2019.

The other top 10 airports for international freight in ranking order are Taipei; Tokyo; Doha; Anchorage; Dubai; Frankfurt; and Miami.


*International freight loaded and unloaded in metric tonnes
** Includes transit freight
Source: Airports Council International

ACI World said air cargo had its volumes increase by close to 15% year on year (+3.5% versus 2019), to an estimated record 124m metric tonnes in 2021.

Air cargo volumes at the top 10 airports, representing collectively around 25% (34.2m metric tonnes) of the global volumes in 2021, gained 12.4% in 2021 year-over-year (or 15.0% vs. 2019 results). The gain can be attributed to the continued increase in demand for online consumer goods and pharmaceutical products.

ACI World estimates that there were over 69m global aircraft movements in 2021, representing a gain of more than 12% from 2020. The top 10 airports represent close to 8% of global traffic (5.3m movements) and experienced a gain of 33.9% year-over-year, still representing a drop of 16.1% vis-à-vis 2019.

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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]