With a reduction in passenger service caused by COVID-19, PHL has been exploring additional sources of revenue generation, including increasing air cargo operations. Situated on the eastern seaboard, minutes off a major interstate (I-95) and in close proximity to Pennsylvania Turnpike connections and bridges across the Delaware River, the airport is in an attractive location for freight operators. Historically, however, PHL has captured very little of mid-Atlantic air cargo opportunities.
“Of the $53 billion in air cargo activity that is generated in a 400-mile radius around PHL, we handle only about nine percent every year,” said PHL Chief Revenue Officer Jim Tyrrell. “Seventy percent of the activity is handled by Newark and JFK, airports that are in highly congested traffic areas.”
While securing a larger share of East Coast air cargo activity has been part of PHL’s masterplan for several years, and portions of the West Cargo Redevelopment & Expansion Plan are underway, the COVID-19 crisis has created an urgency for PHL to grow cargo operations now.
To introduce its current cargo capabilities and discuss its expansion plans, PHL has established the Philadelphia Air Cargo Council. On October 1, more than 80 people representing airlines, ground handlers, importers/exporters, trucking companies and other freight-related industries, participated in an inaugural video conference to learn what PHL can offer now and in the immediate future, as well as partnership opportunities.
“Cargo is trending down globally, but we have seen an almost three percent growth in our operations during the COVID-19 crisis,” said PHL CEO Chellie Cameron. “And airmail handling with Amerijet is up 23 percent. We are committed to making cargo happen in Philadelphia.”
The number of cargo flights at PHL has steadily risen since April, from international charter companies to American Airlines and British Airways adding multiple weekly cargo-only flights to their Philadelphia schedules throughout the summer. Additionally, the airport has seen several special supply flights such as a Titan Airlines charter carrying medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to Italy.
“Being next to I-95, we are a quick in and out for companies importing commodities with limited shelf-lives, like flowers, perishables and pharmaceuticals,” said Stephanie Wear, PHL’s Director of Air Service and Cargo Development. “With partners like American Airlines, British Airways and Qatar Airways, we also have access to airports in Europe and Asia. We just need the cargo world to recognize our potential.”