What are the busiest cargo airports in Asia, Europe and North America?

Today we are going to take a look and see which are the busiest cargo handling airports in Asia, Europe and North America. Although some airports are more air cargo oriented than passenger oriented, they are not necessarily the largest cargo handlers as all major international airports have a cargo facility.


The world has become much more aware of air cargo in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As countries closed their borders and imposed quarantines, the number of people flying dwindled to a trickle. However, due to the need to transport personal protective equipment (PPE) and later vaccines, the use of aircraft to transport goods increased rapidly.

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Today, e-commerce is the engine of air freight

Now that the pandemic is over, air cargo traffic is still high as consumers prefer to shop on the internet rather than on the high street or in malls. E-commerce is the big driver of air cargo these days and shows no signs of waning anytime soon.

Earlier, we mentioned airports that prioritized air cargo over passengers. The main reason for this is their strategic location close to major road and rail networks. The main examples of these types of airports are:

  • Liege Airport (LGG) in Belgium
  • Leipzig/Halle Airport (LEJ) in Germany
  • Zaragoza Airport (ZAZ) in Spain
  • Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) near Columbus, Ohio in the United States
  • Rockford International Airport (RFD) near Chicago in the United States
  • Ezhou Huahu Airport (EHU) in China

In 2021, airlines and air cargo operators carried a record 125 metric tons of cargo, a 15.4% year-over-year increase. According to data provided by Airports Council International (ACI), here is a list of the busiest cargo handling airports in Asia, Europe and North America.

Asia

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) was not only the largest cargo airport in Asia, but also the largest in the world. In 2021, Hong Kong Airport handled 5,025,495 metric tons of cargo, an increase of 12.5% ​​compared to 2020.

Shanghai Pudong Airport ranks second, with 3,982,616 metric tons in 2021, an increase of 8% from 2020.

Incheon International Airport (ICN) in South Korea came in their place in Asia. In 2021, Incheon handled 3,329,292 metric tons of cargo, an 18% increase from 2020.

Europe

The busiest airport for air cargo in Europe was Frankfurt Airport (FRA) in Germany. In 2021, Frankfurt Airport handled 2,274,969 metric tons of cargo, an increase of 18.8% compared to 2020.

In second place, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France. In 2021, Charles de Gaulle airport handled 2,062,433 tons of cargo, an increase of 18.1% compared to 2020.

Third place is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) in the Netherlands. In 2021, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol handled 1,680,584 metric tons of cargo, an increase of 15.4% compared to 2020.

North America

The busiest airport for air cargo and the second busiest in the world was Memphis International Airport (MEM) in Tennessee. As FedEx’s worldwide base in 2021, Memphis International Airport handled 4,480,465, down 2.9% from 2020.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) in Alaska ranks second after handling 3,555,160 metric tons of cargo. Due to its strategic location between North America and Asia, ANC is quickly becoming a central e-commerce hub. Compared to 2020, ANC saw an increase in freight of 12.6% in 2021.

The third busiest airport in North America for air cargo was Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville (SDF) in Kentucky. As the global hub for UPS in 2021, SDF handled 3,052,269 metric tons, an increase of 4.6% over 2020.

Of all the world’s airports on the list, the biggest change in the top 20 was Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). In 2019, the ORD was in 18th place, but in 2021 it had risen to 11th place with 2,536,576 metric tons, an increase of 26.7% compared to 2020.

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