The newly renamed Northwest Arkansas National Airport has commissioned a cargo study to examine ways to diversify its revenue sources.
The contract for the study was awarded to Ohio-based Landrum & Brown Inc., one of three companies offering study proposals to the airport. The company is a privately owned consulting firm that serves the commercial aviation segment worldwide, according to its website.
Four airport staff members evaluated the cargo study pitches that Landrum & Brown rated highest, and the airport’s board of directors approved the contract in late October. The cost of the study is $91,320.
Initial data for the study is still being collected. Once the study officially begins, it’s expected to take about 20 weeks to complete.
Northwest Arkansas National Airport is the state’s second-largest airport. Passenger boardings were up nearly 16% in October at 172,931 when compared with the same month a year ago. From January through October, almost 1.54 million passengers boarded flights at the airport, up nearly 17% when compared with the same period in 2018.
The airport changed its name last week to reflect its role and to help in marketing, according to reports in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Airport officials said the name change will help improve the airport’s initial precept in future endeavours. The airport will keep its XNA designation.
Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for the airport, in response to emailed questions, said the cargo study will help the airport examine potential additional revenue streams.
Today, the airport’s revenue comes from several sources, including airline terminal rent, landing fees, passenger charges, rent from concessions at the airport, rental car fees, parking revenue and land rented for hangars. A cargo facility would see revenue generated from additional sources, including cargo operators paying land rent, building rent and fuel fees to ship out of the airport.
According to Airports Council International-North America, in 2018 Memphis International Airport was the United States’ top airport by cargo, followed by Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska and Louisville International Airport in Kentucky. Air cargo for the year was up 5.1% from 2017.
The cargo study at Northwest Arkansas National Airport will cover among other things the air cargo industry and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport market overview; cargo development and strategic assessment; and a cargo demand forecast and capacity analysis.
Michael Webber, associate vice president with Landrum & Brown, said in response to emailed questions that air cargo is carried by passenger aircraft and dedicated cargo planes, with the vast majority carried on freighters run by UPS, FedEx and Amazon.
“Right now, XNA does not have scheduled all-cargo service, and so a major function of the study will be to determine whether that service is lacking because of the carriers’ perception of demand or for a lack of adequate capacity, in which case recommendations may involve development of some mix of aircraft parking ramp, building and in some cases, even the main-deck loaders used to load and unload aircraft,” Webber wrote.
He noted that air cargo operations are an important element of airport operations because it tends to be made up of high-value, low-weight commodities. He said while air cargo makes up only 1% of total cargo transported by all methods, its nearly 40% of the dollar value of all commodities shipped in the U.S.
Branch, the airport’s development officer, said one challenge that Northwest Arkansas National Airport faces as a cargo hub is the road network surrounding the airport, which could be viewed as a deterrent by a potential cargo carrier.
Earlier this month, three potential routes for an improved road to the airport were presented to the public for consideration and comment. A better link-up to Interstate 49 from the airport has been a key concern for decades and is part of the region’s 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
SundayMonday Business on 12/15/2019