While the economic downturn may be keeping travellers at or closer to home, EIA said it continues to see growth when it comes to cargo service. Last year marked the seventh consecutive year of cargo growth at EIA.
“It’s over the last five to six years that we have been executing to an actual cargo development strategy,” Norm Richard, director of air service development at EIA, said.
“It’s not easy. Not every airport can do this sort of thing… 80 per cent of the world’s cargo aircraft, which we named freighters, only operate in 20 per cent of the world’s airports. So you can see, to be part of that club is very unique.”
Alberta’s oil and gas sector is one of the major drivers when it comes to cargo at EIA, as is the agri-foods business. For the first time last year, EIA carriers brought in fresh cherries from Washington state to be transported to China. EIA has also been responsible for moving live crabs from Washington into Edmonton to connect on an Air Cargo flight into China.
EIA is a destination for Air China Cargo, Icelandair Cargo and Air France/KLM Cargo.
Edmonton is the only Canadian destination for Air China Cargo, which also connects with Chicago. Icelandair Cargo connects to Scandinavian countries, helping with oil and gas freight. Air France/KLM Cargo has connections to Europe and Africa through Amsterdam.
“There are many measurements in the industry that show the value of a cargo flight in terms of economic impact is seven times what the value of passenger flight is,” Richard explained.
With all that cargo coming through the airport, there is also a need for carriers on the ground. The Alberta Motor Transport Association announced last week it will build a new training facility at the airport. The 17,000-square-foot facility will include a driving simulator and five-acre test track.
“It represents a huge opportunity and it’s exciting to see that somebody had the vision to say, ‘we can do this and we can do this in Edmonton,'” Dan Duckering, past chairman of the AMTA, said.
Up to 40 hectares of land at the airport is set aside for cargo development, at the cargo village just south of the main terminal.
As Global News reported last week, passenger traffic at EIA dropped 5.7 per cent in 2016 from 2015.