Addressing the first airfreight seminar put on at the Multimodal trade show, Welsh said the Airports Commission was considering the UK’s urgent lack of airport capacity only from the passenger perspective. Almost 40 percent of UK imports and exports were transported by air, but cargo’s interests were getting “swamped” in what was turning into a highly politicised debate, Welsh said. Few companies were prepared to put their heads above the parapet and comment on the issue, fearing they would be accused of being anti-environment.
In a report to the Airports Commission, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) emphasises London Heathrow’s crucial hub role, Welsh said. “Heathrow needs major investment or, if a new airport is to be built, it should be something comparable. It’s not an option to disperse [cargo] all round the country, although we don’t have a problem with regional airports growing.”
Heathrow has almost 200 scheduled services, and more than 95 percent of cargo moves through the airport in the bellies of passenger aircraft. “Few outside the industry understand this close correlation,” Welsh said. Yet it is nearing saturation point, which is concerning customers in the life sciences industry, the express sector and movers of aircraft spare parts among many others.
Sian Thomas from the Fresh Produce Consortium said foodstuffs depended on a fast and efficient supply chain as they were already bagged and date-stamped in their country of origin. “We’ve got to work with airports to minimise delays, bearing in mind exacting standards of supermarkets,” she said.
Tristan Koch, managing director of cargo sales in the EMEA region for American Airlines, said: “No one argues with the need for new infrastructure, but how do you get the government to deliver? It seems that those who shout loudest get what they want. I can’t see a strong, cohesive presence from this industry. It needs to be more visible.”