Beijing Capital Airport faces cargo litmus test

Beijing Capital International Airport’s world-class airfreight facilities and capabilities were fully tested during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and the airport passed with flying colours. Now that the Games are over, BCIA’s Airport City Logistic Park and the Beijing Airport City development concept are set to come under increasing pressure from nearby Tianjin. Our correspondent Wong Joon San reports from China.

Airport City Logistic Park Beijing Aviation Ground Service Beijing Capital Int'l Airport bonded storage CAAC ground handlers Shanghai Pudong Int'l Airport

Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) is China’s largest passenger airport, and cargo-wise, it is in a leading position in the country, second only to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (SPIA), which holds the pole position. BCIA is the world’s 18th busiest airport in terms of cargo, while SPIA is ranked third busiest freight airport globally.

At present, BCIA has four cargo terminals in operation, and two more cargo terminals are under construction for completion by the end of this year. Two cargo ground handlers – Beijing Aviation Ground Service (BGS) with a 40 per cent market share and Air China with a 60 per cent share – have a total handling capacity of 1.68 million tonnes (BGS with 480,000 tonnes while Air China’s capacity is 1.2 million tonnes).

“BCIA handled 1.37 million tonnes of cargo in 2008, representing a decline of 3.5 per cent versus the same period in 2007,” according to a statement from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC). In comparison Shanghai Pudong handled 2.6 million tonnes last year.

But while the future is certainly promising, the very real impact of today’s downturn has also come home to roost in Beijing dragging Beijing Capital’s June volumes of international cargo down 14.9 per cent year-on-year to 52,667 tonnes, a result of shrinking trade and fewer orders from the traditional markets in US and Europe. The airport is served by about 80 airlines with nearly 75 per cent of its cargo volume carried in belly holds of passenger aircraft, and the balance by freighters.