Monday, June 17, 2024
Building a global gateway in Florida

Building a global gateway in Florida

Miami International Airport (MIA) has seen cargo operations boom in recent years, recording a record breaking period in 2021 with 2.75 million US tonnes of airfreight coming through the hub. 2022 saw MIA almost break its own record again, handling 2.73 million US tonnes.

Since rebounding from the pandemic, MIA has experienced its strongest three-year stretch ever for total airfreight between 2020 and 2022.

The key to MIA’s cargo performance has been maintaining a strong airline and air route network, with a total of 100 airlines – 57 passenger airlines serving 175 non-stop markets and 43 freighter airlines serving 105 non-stop markets.

MIA is the undisputed gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean region. Just in terms of freighter service, it provides access to 30 markets in South America, eight markets in Central America, 32 markets in the Caribbean, and seven markets in Mexico.  In addition, it offers belly cargo capacity to 78 non-stop markets in this region with 1,295 average weekly passenger flights and freighter service to ten transatlantic markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and to eight cities in Asia.

“Throughout the pandemic, MIA has been able to retain most of its airlines and has been quite successful with its air service development program,” Jimmy Nares, Section Chief of Aviation Marketing at Miami-Dade Aviation Department, said. “MIA is truly a global gateway.”

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Balancing passenger and cargo traffic

Passenger travel has returned in a big way at MIA.  In 2022, the airport established a new record of 50.6 million passengers, eclipsing its previous record set in 2019 (pre-pandemic) by approximately 10%. With the return of passenger flights, MIA did not experience much of a short fall in cargo operations, down only a small fraction from the previous year.

“We see this as an encouraging sign because as passenger flights return, so does belly capacity on those flights, which theoretically, should also result in increased cargo volumes,” Nares stated.

MIA is different than many airports in that it has dedicated staff working on developing and maintaining our cargo programs from both a community and air service development perspective.

“We have not lost sight of the importance of cargo and logistics to our local community and will continue to work on keeping our airport competitive when it comes cargo and trade,” Nares added.

A mix of focusing on core strengths in terms of cargo, while also working on initiatives to develop new verticals such as pharmaceuticals has driven the continued growth of the airfreight operations at MIA.  For example, while MIA historically accounts for 69% of all US perishables air imports, the airport carries out a “Perishables Road Show” program to conduct outreach at countries of origin in order to streamline the importation process and improve efficiency at MIA.

In terms of pursuing new cargo opportunities, in 2015, the airport identified pharmaceutical cargo as a growth sector and it developed a CEIV pharma certified airport community.  MIA’s pharmaceuticals cargo has been steadily rising since and reached a record year for volume in 2021 (19.7 million kg), and for value in 2022 ($6.93 billion), respectively.  Over the past five years, volumes surpassed the 16,000 metric ton mark for four out of five years.

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Sustainable and digital future

Sustainability is factored into everything the team at MIA is currently doing and are planning for in our future operations.  Just as it is for Miami-Dade County, which MIA is a part of, sustainability has become part of its DNA.

“We are constantly exploring ways to improve the environment, lower emissions that account for global warming, and mitigate negative impacts on our community.  As an example, the VICC project will be designed to be completely self-sufficient, utilise solar panels as well as an entire electric fleet of support vehicles, and will encourage the use of sustainable/recycled materials in its construction,” Nares explained.

MIA has been working with its cargo community to facilitate the implementation of CCS and electronic Air Waybill for some time.  The team expects that within a very short period, its stakeholders will announce some of the projects they have been working on.

“As more companies incorporate technology into their operations at MIA, the airport will see its efficiency improve, operating costs will be reduced, the airport will become even more competitive in the market, and cargo volumes will ultimately increase,” Nares highlighted.

“MIA’s focus now is on capital improvement projects to both add on-airport capacity and improve efficiency so that we can keep pace with projected growth in demand for cargo for many years to come,” he said.

Picture of Edward Hardy

Edward Hardy

Having become a journalist after university, Edward Hardy has been a reporter and editor at some of the world's leading publications and news sites. In 2022, he became Air Cargo Week's Editor. Got news to share? Contact me on Edward.Hardy@AirCargoWeek.com

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