Hong Kong International Airport reclaims title as world’s busiest cargo hub

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15th April 2024 – (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has once again secured its position as the world’s busiest cargo airport, a title it has held for the 13th time since 2010, according to provisional data released by Airports Council International (ACI). Despite a year-on-year increase of 3.3% in cargo volume to 4.3 million tonnes in 2023, the figures are still trailing behind the pre-pandemic peak of 4.8 million tonnes seen in 2019.

The achievement marks a significant rebound for HKIA, which had ceded its top spot in 2020 due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Jack So, Chairman of the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), expressed pride in reclaiming the lead, highlighting HKIA’s “resilience, unparalleled efficiency, and world-class cargo services.”

HKIA’s recovery has been pivotal in driving the growth of Hong Kong’s logistics sector and its broader economic landscape. “Air cargo is a key driver of Hong Kong’s logistics industry and overall economic development,” So stated, affirming the AAHK’s commitment to enhancing HKIA’s global competitiveness as a leading cargo hub.

The airport’s closest competitor, Memphis in the United States, recorded a cargo throughput of 3.8 million tonnes, marking a 4% decline from the previous year. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s airport experienced a robust growth, handling 3.4 million tonnes, a 10% increase from 2022, securing third place in the global rankings.

In anticipation of future demands, HKIA has announced plans to expand its capacity to handle up to 10 million tonnes of cargo annually with the implementation of a three-runway system later this year. Cathay Cargo, HKIA’s primary cargo operator, reported a substantial 20% increase in its cargo volume, transporting nearly 1.4 million tonnes in 2023.

Tom Owen, Cathay’s Director of Cargo, reflected on the achievement, stating, “Hong Kong being named number one in the world for air cargo underscores the resilience, innovation, and collaborative spirit within the Hong Kong air cargo community.” He also noted the strategic enhancements in infrastructure and intermodal connectivity within the Greater Bay Area, which continue to position Hong Kong at the forefront of the global air cargo industry.

Despite the positive trends at HKIA, the global air cargo market faced a decline of approximately 3.1% in 2023, influenced by geopolitical tensions and disruptions in global trade and supply chains. The total cargo volume handled by the top 10 global cargo airports dipped by 3.5% year on year to 29.6 million tonnes.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World Director General, commented on the broader trends, noting the resilience of international air travel, spurred by China’s reopening and sustained interest in travel despite challenging economic conditions.