According to JLL's annual Airport Outlook Report released today, top U.S. airports are engaged in a fight for a larger share of the challenged U.S. air cargo market.
With world trade growing faster than demand for air cargo, both airports and air carriers face a significant challenge - how can they attract air freight and fend off competition from other cheaper modes of transport such as intermodal and trucks?
"Airport executives are increasingly focused on the bigger picture, specifically the role that their airport and the supporting infrastructure play in making shippers' supply chains more efficient," said Rich Thompson, Managing Director of JLL's Ports Airports and Global Infrastructure (PAGI) group. "The market is not growing as a whole, so they must use every tool they have to stand out, and attract shipping volume."
Instead of relying on airline revenues for driving growth, airports are focused on leveraging nearby commercial real estate assets and logistics corridors to position themselves as an essential link in the supply chain. In fact, some airports are now seeing more than 60 percent of their revenue derived from non-airline sources.
"There are two factors that could increase global air freight," said Thompson. "The rapid growth of e-commerce sales to consumers who demand rapid package arrival, and the demand for time-sensitive and high value goods such as food, perishables, biologics and pharmaceuticals."
Top U.S. Airports
JLL's proprietary Airport Index ranks Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles, as the top performing U.S. airports this year based on criteria such as availability of industrial and warehousing space, access to large population centers, and air cargo growth prospects, the latter is expected to grow by an average of 5.8 percent over 10 years for the airports highlighted in the index.
The top three "aerotropolis" districts--the areas surrounding these cargo-intense airports--stand out for their population access and infrastructure:
Chicago O'Hare (ORD) moves to the top position, up from second in last year's index. Infrastructure is a priority, with new cargo facilities planned that offer both airside and landside access. For supply chain executives, the greater Chicago market offers six major railroad connections, and is a one-day drive to nearly a third of North American consumers. This positions ORD as a gateway of choice- and investors are noticing that buildings are commanding higher rents than ever before within a 3-mile radius from ORD.
Miami (MIA) scores second highest in the index, down from the top position in last year's report. The airport and surrounding businesses control the food and flower trade (moving 71.2 percent of all U.S. perishables) and the lack of a single dominant carrier makes room for enhanced competition and demand for real estate. MIA will also benefit in the coming years from the increased logistical throughput that will occur from the completion of the expansion of the Port of Miami in 2015, as new massive Post-Panamax container ships arrive from China and elsewhere, via the expansion of the Panama Canal occurring now.
Los Angeles (LAX) moved up in the rankings from last year's report, and now ranks third. Freight-forwarders were especially active near the airport in 2013, and real estate demand from logistics providers, consumer non-durables and food & beverage was notable throughout the surrounding market. China remains LAX's largest trading partner, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea; goods that enter through this access point help serve Los Angeles County's ten-million-strong population.
Thompson further commented, "The JLL index reveals the U.S. airports that are positioned for success have access to major population centers, strong trade ties to global regions, logistics corridors that support e-commerce distribution, and specialized industrial facilities such as cold storage that support the air cargo's competitive differentiators: the movement of high value, time-sensitive product".