Cargo rush

Everyone knows that airlines and airports in the Middle East are spending big money on new planes and new facilities. The passenger side of this equation is usually the main focus for observers, but the growth in terms of cargo capacity is equally huge.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  January 3, 2006

|~||~||~|Everyone knows that airlines and airports in the Middle East are spending big money on new planes and new facilities. The passenger side of this equation is usually the main focus for observers, but the growth in terms of cargo capacity is equally huge. The Jebel Ali Airport City in Dubai is the most obvious example of the new cargo capacity that is coming online in the years ahead, but across the Gulf, airports are investing in freight facilities. Qatar Airways, for instance, will move into a 700,000 m2 facility when the new Doha airport opens in 2008. In the meantime, the airline is already drawing up plans to ramp up its freighter fleet. In Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Kuwait, to name a few examples, other airport authorities are also developing new cargo facilities and looking to attract in more freighters, while developing their home carrier’s cargo operations. How though will all of these airports and airlines find the freight they are looking for? To be blunt, they will not. Smaller airports in the region are already seeing their cargo traffic drop dramatically, as shippers are instead drawn towards larger airports. This process is only likely to continue, with marginal airports being forced to give up on their cargo operations — if not close down altogether. Only if the local government is prepared to step in to offer financial support, which is usually readily — if not always justifiably — available in the Gulf, will these airports survive. Larger airports, with a home carrier, are, of course, highly unlikely to shut up shop. However, it is clear that far too much capacity, both freight and passenger, is being built in the Middle East. True, the local air cargo market is growing at a fast and steady rate, but the region’s freight capacity is growing far more quickly. The outcome is sure to be price wars and empty terminals; the only question is where these facilities will be. ||**||

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