December 7, 2021

Anchorage International Airport Saw Double-Digit Cargo Growth In 2020

Anchorage International Airport Saw Double-Digit Cargo Growth In 2020

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is a global cargo hub. The airport solidified that status in 2020 with a 16% increase in year-over-year cargo transportation. The Alaskan airport expects 2021 to also be strong, given its ideal placement for cargo flights.

Anchorage International Airport Saw Double-Digit Cargo Growth In 2020
Anchorage International Airport saw a 16% growth in cargo traffic in 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Anchorage saw cargo boost in 2020


Anchorage International Airport saw 3.48 million tons of air cargo land at the airport in 2020. This was 16% higher than the cargo that arrived in Anchorage in 2019 and represented the continuing strength and demand for air cargo shipments that led the airport to be one of the world’s busiest for part of 2020.

“The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the e-commerce landscape, accelerating market growth—reaching numbers not forecast to be seen in the U.S. for another two years. We expect our cargo numbers to remain strong into 2021; as the air cargo industry continues to recognize the benefits and efficiencies of ANC; as e-commerce shopping becomes routine; as international travel restrictions continue to displace belly cargo.”

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The most significant driving factor for Anchorage’s increase in cargo was the ongoing health crisis. An increase in the demand for supplies from Asia in the Americas led carriers to add new services where possible, and many carriers even launched cargo-only services.

Much of the cargo moving in and out of Anchorage is destined to arrive in places outside of Alaska. As Anchorage is an excellent stopover point between Asia and North America goods, especially those such as pharmaceutical products and e-commerce freight heading to distribution centers, the airport was well primed to see an influx of cargo in 2020.

Many cargo carriers use Anchorage as a stopover point between the US and Asia. Photo: Getty Images

However, Anchorage international airport is also important for getting goods to and from Alaska. Leaving Alaska, airlines will fly cargo like wild-caught seafood, some flowers, and other Alaskan exports, while bringing in some crucial resources and goods from the contiguous United States.

One big cargo headline in 2020 was the arrival of the massive An-225, carrying vital cargo, that stopped over at the airport:

Why Anchorage is a great cargo hub

Anchorage sees over 200 widebody freighter operations per day for a reason, and this map can sum it up:

Anchorage boasts that it is 9.5 hours by air from 90% of the industrialized world. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

Within ten hours of flying time from Anchorage international airport , all of the lower 48 states in the US, Japan, South Korea, and a majority of China are within reach.

Factoring in some of the most common freighter jets out there, then the power of Anchorage becomes even more remarkable. For example, according to Boeing, the 777F has a range of up to 4,880 nautical miles:

The range of the Boeing 777F out of Anchorage. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

One of the most efficient widebody freighters out there, the Boeing 777F can efficiently serve high-demand cargo points such as Hong Kong from Anchorage and easily go out with a hefty payload to points in the US like Chicago, Atlanta, or New York.

The nice part about flying cargo is that cargo does not complain. For example, where most passengers would prefer a long-haul nonstop from, say, Seoul to New York, cargo will not necessarily complain.

Barring cargo that needs to get places quickly, most freight is not necessarily as time-sensitive that a stopover in Anchorage would cause a company to lose out on a lucrative bid to fly freight.

Stopping over in Anchorage allows an airline to load up its aircraft with a greater payload, which means more revenue, which generally leads to greater profits.

Anchorage international airport is still eyeing a spot as a passenger hub


There was a time when Anchorage international airport was a busy airport where thousands of passengers would connect each year. With the rise of new long-haul aircraft and the growth of nonstop routes from North America to Asia, Anchorage began to see a decline in passenger numbers as a global connecting hub. Alaska Airlines keeps Anchorage as a hub and plans to grow its operations there in 2021.

Now, Anchorage wants to start to bring that back. In December, the airport noted that an Anchorage stopover would allow airlines to earn a fair bit of additional cargo revenue.

Anchorage international airport highlighted that a Dallas to Hong Kong nonstop, with a belly cargo weight penalty, could earn $40,000 in additional cargo revenue for each flight by stopping in Anchorage. Brisbane-Anchorage-Chicago could see an additional 24 cargo positions, which would bring an additional $64,000 or more in cargo revenue. Sydney-Anchorage-New York would allow for another $62,000 in cargo revenue

Alaska Airlines is the largest carrier that uses Anchorage international airport as a passenger hub, though not as a long-haul international one. Photo: Getty Images

The airport also made a case for airlines to use Anchorage international airport as a scissor or partner hub. For example, it laid out the example of New Delhi-Anchorage-Los Angeles and Mumbai-Anchorage-San Francisco as potential routings where, when timed correctly, an airline could offer passengers a one-stop connection between the US and India that was not in a foreign country like the UAE or France. The airport also noted that an airline could partner with a US carrier to allow for another connection into a West Coast city like Seattle.

Ultimately, Anchorage will continue to be a leading cargo airport, and it hopes it can get more passenger connections. While time will tell if airlines want to bring back a hub model out of Anchorage, for sure, cargo carriers want to take advantage of the Anchorage stopover and turn huge profits on flying cargo while a lot of belly cargo capacity remains offline.

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