A new analysis by Fitch Ratings shows only two U.S. airports – Southern California’s Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) – experienced significant growth of commercial air freight shipments in the first five months of 2020 as consumers and businesses increasingly relied on e-commerce sources for household goods and critically needed personal protective equipment as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and stay-home orders were implemented.
According to the Fitch Ratings report, just ONT and ANC saw double-digit growth in commercial cargo while freight volumes at other major cargo hubs were either in line with last year or declined slightly.
From January through May, the period analyzed by Fitch, ONT saw air cargo tonnage increase more than 18% compared to the same period in 2019. According to ONT data, monthly and year-to-date increases were even greater in June and July. From March through July, Ontario recorded monthly increases of more than 20%.
“The Fitch Ratings analysis reaffirms Ontario’s role in our nation’s supply chain network, especially in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic profoundly impacted virtually all aspects of life, and we expect air cargo to remain strong for many months to come,” said Mark Thorpe, chief executive officer of the Ontario International Airport Authority.
“Air cargo shipments have been a great insurance policy for us as Ontario, like every other U.S. airport, has experienced steep declines in passenger activity.”
As the Fitch analysis noted, air cargo is frequently used to transport high-value, time-sensitive commodities and, more recently, PPE, ventilators and other medical equipment, demand for which surged as supply chains were disrupted by stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Strong growth at ANC and ONT was attributed in part to their “West Coast proximity and ability to handle an increasing share of PPE originating from Asia,” according to the report by the highly regarded provider of credit ratings, commentary and financial research.