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DFW: Balancing cargo needs for the short and long term

It’s hard enough to stay one step ahead of the competition – try thinking three decades down the road.

That’s the challenge that John Ackerman, executive vice president of global strategy and development for Dallas–Fort Worth Airport (DFW), said he must contend with in today’s fickle and often unpredictable air cargo market.

For instance, DFW secured 16 daily Prime Air flights, as Amazon expanded the role of its operations in Dallas. But, the e-commerce giant giveth and taketh away, as planners from Wilmington Airpark (ILN) in Ohio can surely attest.

“When we make these investments, they are 30-year investments, so you’re trying to figure out what Amazon is going to be doing 30 years from now, and it’s hard enough to figure out what they are doing three months from now,” Ackerman said in a recent interview with Air Cargo World. “It’s a fascinating problem, we’re trying to build what the market needs now, but keep that element of flexibility for the future.”

One way is to get into the heads of forwarders and shippers.

DFW commissioned a total landed-cost model that looked at different trade lanes, factoring in origin, destination, and commodity type for 600 different combinations. “In about 30 percent of those, we have a clear advantage,” Ackerman explained. He said that eliminating the remaining 70 percent helped the airport focus its resources. “We can go to a shipper or forwarder and show them real data that will prove that, for instance salmon from Santiago to Beijing, is better off moving through Dallas. That helps us focus on where we can win and it helps us build credibility because were new to the perishables sector.”

While DFW may be new to perishables, the airport will be given a major boost this summer when it expects to be CEIV-certified, Ackerman said. “Once you factor in our new 37,000-square-foot cold-chain facility, were going from being uncompetitive to very competitive in the perishables space,” he said. The airport is also benefiting from new cargo flights from Qatar and Qantas, as well

With the new perishables facility due online soon, and CEIV certification in the works, local companies that specialize in high-value radio-pharma and time sensitive and valuable cargo are working with Ackerman and his team to make sure their needs are met. “They gave us input into the design of our new facility, and they are keen to have it open.”

On the non-perishables side, investments by global auto manufactures across the border in Northern Mexico are a growing source of volume, with DFW being the closest gateway airport to Mexico’s booming auto industry. The airport handles bonded cargo trucked in. However, this is also an area of consternation. “We’re obviously watching the new administration’s trade policies closely,” Ackermann said. “But we’re optimistic that cooler heads will prevail, and that both the US and Mexico understand how important trade is.”


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