Top 10 Middle East Airports 2011 by Cargo Volumes

Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Sharjah and Muscat all included!
SPECIAL REPORTS, Aviation, Top 10...


While cargo volumes have declined in regions such as Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa during the first half of 2011, there has actually been a modest increase in the Middle East, as the region continues to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure developments. To celebrate, Aviation Business takes a look at the top 10 airfreight hubs in the Middle East.

1. Dubai International Airport
Dubai International Airport is remarkably unchallenged as the Middle East’s largest and most successful airfreight hub, with cargo volumes that are roughly equivalent to the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth positions in our annual rankings, combined. According to Airports Council International (ACI), the airport handled 1,098,660 tonnes of cargo during the first six months of 2011, marking a year-on-year decline of 0.3 percent. However, despite the minuscule reduction, it seems Dubai is destined to maintain its crown for the foreseeable future, with predictions that airfreight volumes in the emirate will increase by approximately 6.7 percent each year for the next decade.
Average cargo volumes per month: 183,110 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 1)

2. Doha International Airport
As the only commercial airport in Qatar, cargo volumes at Doha International Airport have benefitted from the fast-paced expansion of the country’s national carrier Qatar Airways, in addition to the growing presence of other cargo and passenger airlines, such as Emirates, Etihad, Oman Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Martinair Cargo. During the first six months of this year, Doha International Airport registered around 387,436 tonnes of cargo, with a slightly higher ratio of imports over exports. Looking ahead, Qatar is planning to cement its position as the Middle East’s second biggest airfreight hub with the forthcoming New Doha International Airport, the initial phase of which opens next year. Once fully-operational, the multi-billion dollar project will feature a cargo capacity of two million tonnes, easily one of the highest in the region.
Average cargo volumes per month: 64,573 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: Not previous featured)

3. Abu Dhabi International Airport
In terms of cargo volumes, Abu Dhabi International Airport has one of the highest growth rates in the Middle East. The total amount of freight handled between January and June this year was 234,463 tonnes, according to Airports Council International (ACI), which is 10.7 percent higher than the corresponding period in 2010. Of course, similar to the likes of Dubai and Qatar, this success has been fuelled by the rapid expansion of homegrown players such as Etihad Airways and Maximus Air Cargo. In response, a number of developments have been outlined to improve cargo handling facilities at the airport, including a 6000 square metre terminal for perishable goods, such as meats and fruits, the first phase of which opened in September this year, while the second phase will be completed by the end of 2011.
Average cargo volumes per month: 39,077 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 2)

4. Sharjah International Airport
While passenger numbers at Sharjah International Airport increased by a respectable 6.4 percent in the first half of 2011, cargo volumes were 17.3 percent lower in comparison to the same period last year – one of the biggest drops in the Middle East region. This reduction to 165,188 tonnes can be attributed, in part at least, to a greater focus on passenger operations at the airport, especially with the continued success of Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia. However, with dedicated cargo flights still operated by the likes of Avient Aviation and Martinair Cargo, in addition to the freighter subsidiaries of national airlines such as Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and EgyptAir, hopes are high for a future rebound in cargo volumes.
Average cargo volumes per month: 27,531 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 3)

5. Bahrain International Airport
It’s unsurprising that Bahrain International Airport has suffered a heavy decline in passenger and airfreight operations as a result of political unrest in the kingdom earlier this year. However, while cargo volumes of 139,569 tonnes in the first half of 2011 were somewhat disappointing – around 16.2 percent lower than figures from the previous year – the airport has still maintained its enviable position in the top half of our rankings. It will need a successful recovery from the downturn to remain there in the future though, while the completion of various infrastructure developments will also be influential, such as the long-awaited Bahrain Cargo Oasis, which is expected to strengthen the airport’s cargo capacity to one million tonnes.
Average cargo volumes per month: 23,262 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 4)

6. King Khaled International Airport, Riyadh
Often described as a “sleeping giant” in terms of airfreight potential, there are huge opportunities for Saudi Arabia to multiply its cargo volumes in the years ahead, especially with improvements to airport infrastructure and ease-of-business. It seems likely that King Khaled International Airport would lead the country’s transformation after emerging as Saudi Arabia’s leading airfreight hub, with 123,263 tonnes of cargo handled in the first six months of 2011 alone. This represents a healthy increase of 8.2 percent for the Riyadh facility, which is reason enough for operator Fraport Saudi Arabia to celebrate, as it means a continued return to growth patterns after a knock from the global recession.
Average cargo volumes per month: 20,543 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 5)

7. King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah
While cargo volumes at King Abdulaziz International Airport have not increased at quite the same pace as King Khaled International Airport in recent months, a growth rate of 2.6 percent was still achieved by the Jeddah facility in the first half of 2011, making it Saudi Arabia’s second biggest airfreight hub. Airports Council International (ACI) reports that 76,908 tonnes of cargo was handled during that period, with a solid contribution from national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines, amongst others. Looking ahead, a multi-billion dollar investment has been made to develop a brand new terminal in several phases, the first of which includes a cargo village that will be driven by private sector investment.
Average cargo volumes per month: 19,043 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 6)

8. Kuwait International Airport
Kuwait International Airport has traditionally been overshadowed by more-developed facilities in neighbouring countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Although official statistics have not consistently been reported in the first half of 2011, Airports Council International (ACI) confirms that 67,661 tonnes of cargo were handled at Kuwait International Airport in January, March, April and May combined. On average, this equates to 16,915 tonnes per month – around 4.7 percent lower than the corresponding months in 2010.
Average cargo volumes per month: 16,915 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 7)

9. Muscat International Airport
Muscat International Airport experienced a breakthrough year with its cargo performance last year, with a massive volume growth of 49.6 percent over 2009 levels, much of which can be attributed to Oman Air Cargo’s impressive performance in 2010. While growth has continued in the first half of 2011, cargo volumes were 48,403 tonnes between January and June, representing a modest increase of 0.1 percent over the same period in 2010. However, the airport is still ‘one to watch’ in the rankings and should bolster its 2011 average during the second half of the year, after ending its summer slowdown period.
Average cargo volumes per month: 8067 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 7)

10. Queen Alia International Airport, Amman
With the growth of Jordan as a Middle Eastern logistics hub, it makes sense that the country’s biggest airport, Queen Alia International, makes an appearance in our annual ranking. However, after double-digital growth in cargo volumes last year, the airport has reported a 1.7 percent decline in the first half of 2011, with the handling of 43,045 tonnes. There are positive signs ahead, with operator Airport International Group (AIG) set to open the first phase of a US$800 million terminal in the summer of 2012.
Average cargo volumes per month: 7174 tonnes (Last year’s ranking: 9)

Related article: Top 10: Middle East Carriers by Revenue in 2010

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