Lufthansa Cargo has relocated its cargo warehouse inside the gate at Detroit’s main airport to improve operational efficiency and support growing international volumes.
Businesses that move freight with German flag carrier Lufthansa through Detroit will save time and be able to tender a greater variety of specialty products because cargo processing has moved to an airside building from an off-airport location, eliminating the need to shuttle goods by truck.
Avflight, the local airport services operator that handles Lufthansa’s cargo shipments, this month began leasing a 20,000-square-foot former aircraft hangar that was converted into a temporary warehouse and plans to develop a larger, permanent terminal to house its Lufthansa business, the companies announced Tuesday.
The relocation shortens the distance for cargo handoffs to and from aircraft, reducing operating costs and allowing Lufthansa to provide more capacity for special shipments, such as live animals, valuable cargo and hazardous materials.
Besides streamlining operations, Lufthansa is seeking a bigger facility because its import and export volumes are growing. The airline operates seven weekly passenger flights to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport that deliver 500 tons of cargo per year. Detroit is an important destination for Lufthansa because of the large automotive industry in Michigan. Top trade partners include Germany, other nations in Europe, South Africa and Thailand. Lufthansa’s cargo division, which manages shipments for the airline, also transfers shipments between Detroit and Chicago by truck.
“Together with Avflight, we are creating an ideal basis with a future-oriented cargo location in Detroit to further position ourselves in the market as a reliable and professional partner for our cargo customers … by investing in a modern infrastructure as well as cost- and time-efficient handling processes,” said Stephanie Abeler, vice president and head of the Americas region at Lufthansa Cargo.
Avflight has a ground lease with the airport authority allowing it to construct a new cargo facility next to the existing structure. Lufthansa Cargo will help design the quick-flow warehouse for optimal efficiency and capability to process premium products. The permanent site is tentatively scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024, Lufthansa Cargo said.
Project discussions, including the full scope and total investment, are still in the preliminary stages between Avflight, Lufthansa Cargo and the airport, said Garrett Hain, Avflight’s vice president of finance, in an email.
Detroit is the latest example of cargo airlines and shippers turning to secondary airports to support cargo business for better efficiency, service and cost. A report this month by researchers at DePaul University demonstrated that cargo-focused airports have outperformed large passenger gateways in terms of cargo volume during the past four years. Detroit Metro doesn’t qualify as a cargo-oriented airport because it has a limited amount of freighter operations and is a Delta Air Lines hub, but the investment gives Lufthansa the ability to accommodate freighters if it chooses.
Lufthansa Cargo has a fleet of 11 Boeing 777 freighters.
Logistics companies DSV and Kuehne+Nagel are similarly making use of aircraft hangars to temporarily house their new freighter operations at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama, respectively, until permanent facilities are built.
Some regional airports outside major metropolitan areas also are attractive because they are closer to manufacturing areas, which reduces the need for truck transport.
Privately held Avflight, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, owns businesses that operate 25 general aviation airports and provides ground services to airlines.
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