Putzger perspective: Airport bottlenecks

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US airports are set to plough government funding into passenger facilities but neglect cargo, writes Ian Putzger.

The supply chain disruptions of the past two years have led to a loosening of government purse strings in many locations.

Faced with epic congestion from ports to inland rail hubs, the US administration has doubled spending on marine infrastructure.

The latest round of funding from Washington has unleashed $703m to support 41 port projects across 23 states.

The aviation sector has not been forgotten. In July the Federal Aviation Administration announced nearly $1bn for 85 airports across the US.

Not surprisingly, this is not targeting necessary cargo capacity. The money is designated for terminal upgrades.

Few people would dispute that many passenger facilities need improvement, but once again it seems that the lens is firmly focused on passenger matters when it comes to the aviation sector.

This is despite the lessons of the past two years about the vital role that airfreight plays, from rushing vaccines to large population centres to delivering vital products to keep the economy going.

The US Airforwarders Association (AfA) has highlighted the need for funding of air cargo infrastructure upgrades and related efforts to improve operations.

As a result of their financial situation, airports will spend money on passenger-related matters, leaving too little to sustain cargo operations, it warns.

In conjunction with the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, the AfA has produced a white paper that calls for an ‘Air Cargo Support Fund’ backed at the state or federal level.

The paper is based on a survey of 400 air cargo stakeholders aimed to identify the critical issues and the airports that are facing the greatest challenges.

Its authors concluded that “the situation is becoming critical with potentially severe impacts on the economy and jobs throughout the country”.

Among the paper’s recommendations are the implementation of cargo community systems and a new industry-wide training programme.

One hurdle for a more proactive stance from policymakers regarding air cargo development is that too many look at the sector in terms of popular perception regarding environmental issues rather than the economic benefits.

As recent moves in Europe have shown, there is a willingness to curb aviation activity for environmental reasons.

As funding of airport projects illustrates, cargo stands to be disproportionately affected by such moves, regardless of its economic importance compared to low-cost passenger flying.

And cargo does not spend on trinkets and overpriced food in airport terminals.

Putzger Perspective: Cargo airports staying the course

Putzger perspective: Air cargo’s tricky navigation

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