Knowing the Real Weight of Australian Airfreight - Airport Group

Knowing the Real Weight of Australian Airfreight

Extensive research has been conducted on the behaviours of airline passengers from their personal identities to their reasons for travel and lengths of stay — but what about the vast quantities of goods that are carried underneath them?

With over 80 percent of all Australian airfreight carried in commercial or passenger aircraft, and an estimated value of over 20% of Australia’s international trade, knowing what’s in the hold is of vital strategic importance, not only to airline and airport logistics but to our nation’s economy. Yet to date, very little has been done to facilitate a better understanding of airfreight. 

In the first Australian report of its kind, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and BIS Oxford Economics have measured and published the composition of these trade flows. The International Airfreight Indicator gives stakeholders the information they need to optimise their use of current infrastructure and maximise the planning potential of future operations.

We highly recommend giving the International Airfreight Indicator a read. However, if you’re short on time, here are our top seven take-aways from the report:

  • Airfreight is becoming an increasingly prevalent mode of transport for valuable imports and exports. Despite being less than 1% of world trade volume, airfreight represents 21.5% of total value. 
  • Uplifts in commercial passenger throughput and airlines/aircraft flying to or from Australia increases the potential for ‘belly’ airfreight. Today, 80% of airfreight is carried in passenger aircraft and the remainder is carried by dedicated freighter aircraft. 
  • In Australia, airfreight imports per capita in FY2017-18 were 70kg and exports 71kg. Over the past 5 years, this has increased approximately 60% and FY2017-18 was a record high
  • The four large international airports in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) make up 96% of air based import and export trade into Australia. 
  • Broadly speaking, the types of import goods to Australia by air are relatively consistent across the four main airports (machine and equipment, clothing, cosmetics and chemicals and metals). Perth is a notable exception due to the extensive precious metals trade in the region. 
  • In terms of volume, exports are largely driven by animal-based products, vegetables and beverage products. 
  • The value of exports from Australia is largely driven by gold, and as such,Perth Airport experiences a disproportionate share of exports.
  • Airfreight forecasts for FY2018-19 anticipate a moderate increase to 1.2 million tonnes of freight, worth $114 billion. 
  • Forecasts show a 6.2% growth in imports by value in FY2018-19 e, with a forecast 4.7% growth by volume in FY2018-19. Conversely, exports are expected to ease to 1.6% by value and 2.4% by volume.

Adrian Dwyer, CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, states that continuing to develop the International Airfreight Indicator requires adding new data and further depth to analysis. 

“The International Airfreight Indicator shows that airports are crucial to our trade story, and makes the case that improving logistics first requires improving data. Knowing what’s contained in the undercarriage “belly” of a plane is one thing, but the value, origin, destination and demographics of their production and consumption are critical to harnessing the full power of freight information”.

Aviation is increasingly connecting the world in a globalised society and economy. Australia is in a position to take advantage of this trend, with a diverse range of products and goods available for export and a growing population which will increase demand for imports. Rob Mactaggart (co- founder of  the The Airport Group) believes there is an opportunity for the growth of airfreight in Australia and that the industry needs to be fostered to ensure that these opportunities are maximised and accommodated effectively. In order to achieve this, he argues that airports, aircraft operators, distributors and the wider freight and logistics industry in Australia should work together.

Through working with communities across Australia TAG has found a recurring theme that many regions look to airport operators to drive air freight services. Oftentimes, airports have the land and infrastructure to accommodate freight handling facilities and the appropriate aircraft. Rob Mactaggart explains that, “The key step, which is usually overlooked, is to prove up the business case to gain the attention of the logistics chain stakeholders (e.g. export producers, freight forwarders, aircraft operators, import regulators). Further, the industry should take advantage of existing aviation networks across the country. By utilising the existing belly freight capacity of regional services, and hubbing through the capital city airports, existing networks can service the Australian population and distribute Australian products and goods around the world”.


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