Top 10 (busiest) Cargo Airports in the world, 2022

Just recently the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a report that marked the global air cargo demand at pre-COVID levels, achieving a 32 year high, despite the operating challenges. The February 2022 statistics showed a promising recovery of the air cargo industry, globally. While the demand, in terms of cargo tonne-kilometres (CTK), augmented by 11.9 percent in comparison to February 2019, it rose up by 2.9 percent since February 2021.

On 11th April, the Air Council International (ACI) World released its world airport rankings along with the statistics showing that global air cargo went up by 124 million metric tonnes i.e. 3.5% in 2021 in comparison with the numbers in 2019. On the same page, the top cargo airports lead this growth in numbers with 15% more cargo handling than 2019.

Air cargo volumes at the top 10 airports, representing collectively around 25% (34.2 million 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.

Let us take a look at the top 10 cargo airports in terms of global business handling.

Hong Kong International Airport

The current COVID-19 restrictions have rendered Hong Kong unable to function as an international cargo hub with its full glory and IATA says that the airport will be pushed off the list, along with being difficult for it to recover. Though this will most probably impact Hong Kong’s position in the 2022 statistics, but for the year that just went by, Hong Kong retained its position at the top of the list for busiest cargo airports. In 2021, it processed a total cargo volume of 5.02 million metric tonnes, which was 4.5% more than that in 2019 and 12.5% more than 2020 values. Similarly, it was also the top airport to process international freight, valuing to 4.98 million metric tonnes, which is 12.8% more than 2020 and 6% more than 2019.

HKIA expedites clearance by providing integrated Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) linkage between the eight major air cargo operators and the Customs & Excise Department. It has also been fully equipped to serve as the preferred gateway in Asia for transporting COVID-19 vaccines to global destinations by leveraging its excellence in cold-chain infrastructure, pharmaceuticals handling and extensive air network at an advantageous geographic location.

Memphis International Airport

Memphis Airport is at the second position again after briefly holding the top spot in 2020. It handled total cargo volume of 4.48 million metric tonnes, which was 3.6% more than 2019 but 2.9% less than 2020. It did not make to the list of top airports on the basis of handling international freight.

FedEx is Memphis International Airport’s most prominent air cargo operator, with around 400 flights per day and handling around 180,000 packages per hour. Cargo East features approximately 1.4 million square feet of ramp area. The facility includes more than 36,000 square feet of building space and features a high level of security, cold storage, and hazardous materials storage as well as business-friendly lobbies, reception areas, front office administration and management spaces. Short-term commercial building space (4,000 – 200,000 sq. ft) is also available for lease in the airport area.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai Pudong International Airport has trained 3rd spot by handling 3.98 million metric tonnes of cargo i.e. 9.6% more than 2019 and 8% more than 2020. It is also at the 3rd position for processing 3.24 million metric tonnes international freight, 14.9% more than 2019 and 9.9% more than 2020.

Shanghai Pudong Int’l Airport Cargo Terminal Co., Ltd. (PACTL) is one of the major cargo hubs in China and a Sino-German venture found in 1999. On the basis of IATA Standard Ground Handling Agreement, it offers services like Cargo and mail handling, Special cargo handling (DG, VAL, AVI etc), Document handling, Cargo tracing, ULD pallet / container handling, Customs control etc. They boast of a cool chain infrastructure, Bulk cargo operating system, strong room, live animals room and much more as a part of their air cargo infra.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport comes next with 3.55 million metric tonnes cargo handling which is 29.5% more than 2019 and 12.6% more than 2020. It hold the 7th position in International Freight handling, processing 2.24 million metric tonnes of freight in 2021, 25.5% more than 2019 and 9.8% more than 2020.

Air carriers can create new opportunities for global cargo logistics and integrated alliance partner networks by taking advantage of expanded cargo transfer rights at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC). Since January 2004, the law permits air cargo to or from a foreign country to be transferred to another airline in Alaska without being considered to have broken its international journey. For air carriers ANC is less than nine hours by air from 90 percent of the industrialized world. Its liberalized air cargo transfer rights and location allow for both cost and operational efficiency.

Seoul Incheon International Airport

Next in the list is the Seoul Incheon International Airport handling 3.33 million metrics tonnes of cargo in 2021, 20.4% more than 2019 and 18% more than 2020. It processed 3.27 million metric tonnes of international freight in 2021, 22.9% more than 2019 and 18.6% more than 2020 – thereby, placing it on the 2nd position in the list of airports with most international freight handling.

The airport was constructed and opened for business in 2001 to share the demand for air transport in the 21st century and to serve as a hub airport in Northeast Asia. The value of goods exported and imported via Incheon International Airport for the past two decades is estimated at USD15 trillion, or some nine times South Korea’s gross domestic product in 2020. Exports and imports handled at the airport amounted to nearly 34% of 2020’s total trade value as it handled high-price products, such as semiconductors and medicines.

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport handled 3.05 million metric tonnes of cargo in 2020, placing it at the 6th position in the list of world’s busiest cargo airports. It’s performance in cargo handling was 9.4% more than 2019 and 4.6% more than 2020. However, it did not make it in the list of world’s top 10 airports for freight handling.

The LMAIA is home to the United Parcel Service (UPS) international air sorting hub.

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

At the 7th position in the list is the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for handling 2.81 million metric tonnes of cargo in 2021, 28.9% more than 2019 and 20.7% more than 2020. It also went up to the 6th position for international freight handling with 2.79 million metric tonnes in 2021, going up by 29% since 2019 and 20.2% since 2020.

It is operated by the Taoyuan International Airport Corporation. In 2016, it was ranked the best airport for its size in the Asia-Pacific region by Airports Council International. It is an important regional trans-shipment center, passenger hub, and gateway for destinations in Asia.

Los Angeles International Airport

The Los Angeles International Airport, at the 8th place in the list of busiest airports in the world, handled 2.69 million metric tonnes cargo in 2021, 28.7% more than 2019 and 20.7% more than 2020. It is also not present in the list of airports handling most international freight.

The products that are exported and imported through Los Angeles are as varied as the number of airlines and nations served. More than 1,000 flights depart and arrive every day carrying cargo and more than half of the air cargo at LAX arrives and departs in the bellies of passenger aircraft. The most exported air commodity in terms of tonnage from LAX is vegetables, fruit and nuts with 15.1% of the total weight. Other leading exports are base metals and articles thereof; computer equipment; photo, science and medical instruments; paper and pulp products; chemical products; plastics and articles thereof; prepared foodstuffs; special classification provisions; and aircraft products. Apparel is the leading imported air cargo commodity, followed by computer equipment, audio and video media, fish, office machinery, textiles, footwear, vehicles other than railway, photo, science and medical instruments and electronic components.

Tokyo Narita Airport

Tokyo Narita Airport holds the 9th position in the list for busiest cargo airports. In 2021, it processed a total cargo volume of 2.64 million metric tonnes, which was 25.7% more than that in 2019 and 31.1% more than 2020 values. Similarly, it was also the top 5th airport to process international freight, valuing to 2.59 million metric tonnes, which is 32.3% more than 2020 and 27% more than 2019.

A countless variety of export products, including electronic, electrical and mechanical parts, pass through Narita Airport’s Cargo Terminal for delivery to markets throughout the world. In the area near Narita Airport, numerous freight forwarders are building their own cargo handling facilities, and real-estate companies specializing in logistics are developing facilities for rent and lease. The airport plays a central role in Japan’s air cargo logistics.

Doha Hamad International Airport

Last on the top 10 list is the Doha International Airport, which handled 2.62 million metric tonnes cargo in 2021, 18.2% more than that in 2019 and 20.5% more than that in 2020. It is also in the list for top international freight handling airports with 2.58 million metric tonnes handled in 2021, 19.1 % more than 2019 and 20.7% more than 2020.

The Doha Hamad International Airport boasts one of the most sophisticated cargo terminals in the world. Located in the midfield area, HIA´s cargo terminal has a capacity to process 1.4 million tonnes of cargo per year. The two-floor cargo facility incorporates warehouse spaces, Automated Systems / Retrieval Systems mezzanine, offices and shops. The split-level facility covers 55,000 square metres, with 31 landside truck-loading facilities enabling the swift and efficient transfer of cargo in and out of Qatar. With advanced scanning technology it ensures the complete safety and security of the facility, its staff and cargo.

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