Air CargoAmerican ShipperNews

Alliance Ground acquires cargo handler at Chicago O’Hare airport

Move increases warehouse, pharma capacity as ground service providers cope with severe cargo congestion

Alliance Ground International, a large provider of airport services to airlines in the U.S., has acquired MIC Cargo to increase its cargo handling capability at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, the company announced Wednesday. MIC’s flagship account is Emirates SkyCargo.

The acquisition gives Alliance Ground additional warehouse and aircraft parking capacity at Chicago O’Hare, with a combined warehouse footprint of more than 1 million square feet. The cargo processor also gains specialized cold storage capability for products such as vaccines.

Swallowing up a competitor reduces the number of cargo services companies at O’Hare to five. Less choice opens the possibility of airlines paying more for logistics services and higher rates for freight forwarders that ship by air.

Chicago O’Hare continues to experience extreme cargo backlogs as freighters deliver more shipments than the existing infrastructure and reduced labor pool can efficiently manage. Logistics professionals say it can take up to two weeks to retrieve import shipments, with many pallets stored in parking lots, because terminals are having difficulty sorting and storing freight.

AGI, which is owned by investors Audax Private Equity and Greenbriar Equity Group,  handles cargo for 55 airlines at 13 airports. It also provides cargo, crew and airport security. It is the largest cargo processor at O’Hare, managing 640,000 square feet of space in four airport terminals plus a new facility 10 minutes from the airport dedicated to transferring imports to logistics companies.

MIC, also known as Maestro International Cargo, was established in 2017 by venture capitalist Edip Pektas and COO Sanj Rathi. The airside ground handler loads, unloads and processes cargo on scheduled passenger and cargo airlines, and ad hoc charters. It leases a 70,000-square foot facility with two ramp spaces for all-cargo aircraft from the Chicago Department of Aviation. 

Last summer it opened a 164,000-square-foot off-airport facility near O’Hare airport where import cargo is immediately trucked after arrival to minimize congestion at its main terminal. The company also operates an export-only facility near the airport for receiving, staging and building export containers and pallets.

MIC has a good reputation among freight forwarders in the Chicago area because of its technology adoption, professional management and willingness to make investments to increase efficiency. Local experts credit MIC for hiring top cargo managers from rival companies and differentiating themselves from other operators with their culture and service.  

“MIC has established itself as a great player in the Chicago market. It has amazing cold chain and pharma capability. AGI looks to work with their amazing team to expand those capabilities and offer that product to all our customers who need it,” said Warren Jones, AGI’s vice president of business development.

He explained that MIC has an excellent client base and that its operation will fit well with AGI’s ramp operations, ultimately benefiting the air cargo community in Chicago.

Earlier this month, MIC Cargo announced it would open its first facility outside Chicago, at Rickenbacker International Airport, a dedicated cargo airport near Columbus, Ohio. The acquisition gives AGI a foothold in that rapidly growing market. 

MIC will continue to operate under its own brand, Jones said. 

“We will continue operating the company as usual and participate in the development of AGI,” Pektas said in an email message.

AGI is one of the largest ground handlers in the country, behind global operators Swissport and Worldwide Flight Services. It doesn’t have operations in major gateways such as Dallas, Houston and Seattle/Tacoma, but continues to grow.

Alliance recently moved into a larger, 14,000-square-foot facility at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and its Cargo Force mail subsidiary, which handles airmail for the U.S. Postal Service, recently opened a facility at Seattle Tacoma International Airport, according to the company’s LinkedIn account.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


Stealing your own freight: O’Hare cargo delays force drastic measures

Maestro choreographs way around O’Hare cargo gridlock

Cargo handlers move to airport suburbs to escape O’Hare congestion


Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at