Liège Airport flying high

Looking at Liège Airport’s cargo statistics – with a phenomenal 13 per cent growth in cargo tonnage and 11 per cent more freighter capacity along with improved load factors in the first six months of this year – it’s easy to forget that much of the industry is still struggling along a flat line cargo growth trajectory and the mere mention of ‘freighters’ is considered a dirty word by many. But clearly the situation at the Belgian cargo airport is patently different. By Donald Urquhart.

Certainly the situation for the, ‘almost’ all-freighter cargo airport, has possibly never looked better. The ‘almost’ is the result of a curious event that occurred earlier this year, putting a new, albeit minor, spin on Liège Airport’s business – the formerly all-freighter cargo airport took on a belly dimension.

“We’ve always been 100 per cent freighter and zero per cent belly and now it’s going to move to 99 per cent freighter and 1 per cent belly,” Steven Verhasselt, business development manager of Liège Airport (LGG) says with his characteristic laugh.

This happened when LGG began getting passenger flights from China – although it’s not the first time as the airport has been getting passenger services from leisure carriers for a number of years, but they carried no belly cargo. Verhasselt explains that a Russian carrier is operating flights on behalf of a Chinese tourism company three times a week.

“We’re getting 1,000 Chinese passengers and 60 tonnes of cargo a week between Liège and Xi’an, Shenyang and Tianjin,” he says. The flights started with A340s but now have upscaled to B777s which bumps up the weekly belly cargo capacity from 30 to 60 tonnes per week.

Certainly not an event that will make or break the airport, which in 2014 handled 590,000 tonnes of cargo and this year will surely exceed that figure considerably – firmly cementing its position as Belgium’s leading cargo airport and the fastest growing large cargo airport in Europe. But it does speak to the many sources of LGG’s growth.