St Louis hub – the trickle before the flood

PLANS to transform Lambert-St Louis International Airport (US) into a cargo hub connecting China and the US will get underway with the arrival of a China Eastern freighter on 23 September.

China Eastern has not confirmed the flight but has been negotiating with Lambert since January and in July sent a technical team to meet with freight forwarders in the area.

The airport and airline are hoping to sign a two-year lease on a cargo hangar this week, Lambert director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said.

Present plans include a weekly flight, with the hope that China Eastern will push that to thrice-weekly flights during the busy pre-holiday shipping season.

This move follows a four-year bid to turn the underused airport into an international freight centre. Growth at the hub depends largely on the airport’s controversial US$360 million Aerotropolis tax credits providing subsidies for freight forwarders to export from Lambert and establishing new tax credits to build warehouses and other facilities around the airport.

“If we don’t get Aerotropolis, neither we nor the Chinese believe this route is going to succeed,” St Louis mayor Francis Slay commented. “To make this whole effort successful we need to have a true hub, and one or two or three flights a week is not a hub.”

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