Hong Kong International Airport was the busiest cargo airport in 2021, according to the Airports Council International (ACI) World annual rankings. In 2021, the Hong Kong hub handled 5,025,495 tonnes of cargo, up 12.5 per cent on 2020, and enough to put Memphis International Airport back into second place after it had taken the top spot in 2020. Hong Kong also topped the tonnages for ‘international freight’ with 4,986,256 tonnes, an increase of 12.8 per cent against 2020.
Of the five million tonnes handled at Hong Kong in 2021, Cathay Pacific Cargo carried 1,333,353 tonnes, which was consistent with performance in 2020, but still below pre-pandemic levels.
Cathay Pacific Director Cargo Tom Owen said: ‘Hong Kong remains the premier air cargo logistics hub in the world and continues to build on the advantages of its strategic location with future investment and logistics-friendly policies from the Hong Kong SAR Government.’
With so much of its passenger fleet stood down because of the pandemic in 2021, Cathay Pacific Cargo boosted cargo capacity for customers in a number of ways. It maximised usage of its 20-strong Boeing 747 freighter fleet, operated a record number of charters, flew 7,867 pairs of cargo-only passenger flights and also converted six Boeing 777s into cabin-load ‘preighters’ – passenger aircraft with their seats removed. Additionally, the cargo team was able to deploy the Cathay Pacific Group’s Air Hong Kong fleet with supplementary regional daytime flying after its overnight work for DHL.
Despite a difficult start to the year, the end of 2022 will be marked by the progressive reintroduction of the passenger fleet. ‘By the year end, around a quarter of our passenger fleet will be operating, which will enable us to operate around 65 per cent of our pre-pandemic cargo capacity,’ added Owen.
Additionally, investment at both airline and airport level has continued reflecting confidence in Hong Kong as the air gateway to the Greater Bay Area of the southern Chinese Mainland. This has included the opening of the new third runway, which will enable full three-runway operations from 2024.
‘Cathay Pacific Cargo is proud to call Hong Kong our home,’ concluded Owen. ‘We will continue to play a central role in the future success of the Hong Kong air cargo hub and make our own investments in the logistics chain to realise future growth opportunities for the region.’