International Connections: ANC Air Freight Gateway

Feb 1, 2017 | Transportation


Alaska Airlines is the dominant airline using the South Terminal at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, most recently garnering 56.26 percent of the airport’s passenger traffic.

Opening the door to future business for Alaska

It’s not an unusual day to see seventy or more cargo aircraft transiting Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport destined for international hubs. Despite Alaska’s waning economy Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is a predictable economic engine and a solid International transportation player with a future.

Recent conversations with Airport Manager John Parrott point to the possibility of attracting other types of value-added business to the airport’s equation. This would inevitably include aviation related businesses adding additional services such as aviation maintenance and repair facilities.

Already attracting more than 15,577 airport-related jobs means that 1 in every 10 jobs in Anchorage is somehow related to ANC, proving that the engine is revving.

A FedEx cargo freighter landing at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Money-Saving Stop-Over

Internationally known for its location some 9.5 hours from 90 percent of industrialized centers in the world, ANC offers a fuel “tech” stop allowing aircraft to trade fuel weight for precious paying cargo. Airport officials are proud of the ANC-based service companies that “turn” aircraft routinely in under two-hours.

“This allows each aircraft a quick turnaround near or at its halfway point to distant destinations,” says airport manager John Parrott. “This saves carriers between $100,000 and $125,000 dollars per flight.”

Some call it a pit stop for fuel at what was once the “Air Crossroad of the World,” now referred to as the “Air Cargo Crossroad of the World.” Airport officials recently coined the term “AeroNexus” to describe ANC’s unique position in the air cargo industry. The advantage provided by Alaska’s central location will continue to be an essential locus of connectivity in air cargo.

ANC boasts of five hundred wide-body cargo aircraft flights a week which requires timing and efficient turnaround times between landings and takeoffs. Other international airports use time slots for takeoffs and landings, creating a need for time-sensitive tech stops here in Alaska.

ANC has no slot (scheduled takeoff and landing time) restrictions or curfews and remains operational twenty-four hours a day—snow or no snow it has never been closed. ANC is a five-time winner of the Balchen Post Award for Large Airport Snow Removal Programs.

Boasting thirty-seven thousand wide and narrow body cargo landings and more than fifty thousand passenger aircraft landings yearly requires teamwork and timing. Serving forty-nine cargo destinations from Anchorage by twenty international carriers and fifteen domestic airlines keeps ANC’s three runways busy year-round.

Get ready for more carriers that will add to the mix for the airport, fuelers, and ground handlers in 2017.

“We have two more cargo carriers coming in the spring,” according to Trudy Wassel, divisions operations manager at ANC. “We are getting cargo carriers from Vietnam and another from Azerbaijan who will be using the airport as a tech-stop. We also have contact from an Ethiopian cargo carrier planning on making Anchorage its stop on the way to the Lower 48.”

While there are no major capital improvements projects ongoing at the airport currently, ANC recently added additional hardstand parking areas south of the FedEx facility along Runway 15/33. Additional centerline to wingtip widening space along the western-most taxiway Y&K that parallels the North/South Runway to the west has been completed.

But Parrott stresses that, just like at every growing airport, there are always new possibilities on the horizon. “With relationships that we continue to keep, and have added, we are always looking at infrastructure or value-added airport improvements for the future,” says Parrott.

FedEx is the major carrier at Anchorage by tonnage for US carriers for imports and exports.

FedEx and UPS at ANC

Citing location as the airport’s main attraction for cargo carriers brought FedEx and UPS to the airport in the late 1980s. Both UPS and FedEx have sorting facilities and are the major carriers at Anchorage by tonnage for US carriers for imports and exports of freight. Both predict larger growth in the Pacific Rim as trade with China increases and traffic increases among other Far East countries as they thrive. FedEx Express is the largest of the cargo facilities at ANC and can sort as many as 13,400 packages per hour. UPS’s hub handles parcels at a rate of 5,000 per hour.

Larger Cargo Aircraft: Fewer Airport Operations, Faster Fueling

While the number of landings is down from previous years, the airport holds the fourth spot for cargo throughput and is the second largest US airport by landed cargo weight. But there is no need for alarm says Parrott, who is optimistic about increased cargo traffic in the coming years.

“The reason for fewer landings is that the cargo carriers are flying much bigger aircraft,” Parrott explains. “The Boeing 747-800 F and the 777 cargo freighters are capable of carrying 308,000 pounds [140 tons] and 224,900 pounds [102 tons] correspondingly.”

By comparison, the older Boeing 747-400F cargo freighters had a much smaller useful load of 274,100 pounds, or 124 tons. The newer generation of cargo aircraft is more fuel efficient using fan jet engines, winglets, and carbon fiber construction.

For what the airport lacks in terms of throughput weight it makes up for in fuel flowage. Pumping 1.7 million gallons daily into wide-body jets makes the Anchorage Fueling and Service Company a profitable venture for its nineteen air carrier owners, as well as for the privately-owned businesses fueling and offering ground support that service the thirty-one cargo carriers at ANC.

Anchorage Fueling and Service Company has nine 4 million gallon fuel tanks in a tank farm located west of Runway 15/33 near the south end of Runway 33.

Unlike other airports that fuel from tanker trucks, ANC has an underground pipe system that runs under the ramp. Once the aircraft is parked at the hardstands a pump truck connects to the underground pipeline and to the aircraft, drawing the jet fuel into the aircraft’s fuel tank by pumping it out of the pipeline, making for faster fuel delivery.

Special USDOT Exemption for Transfer Rights

ANC also offers something special for US domestic and international cargo carriers.

Called the Expanded Air Services at Alaska International Airports, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) allows ANC an exemption from the Jones Act allowing trans-loading transfers of cargo from US and foreign carriers.

“This allows two carriers to meet in Anchorage from different directions, transfer cargo destined for a location in the US from a foreign carrier to the domestic carrier, who can transfer its outbound cargo from the US loaded to a foreign carrier,” explains Trudy Wassel, Air Service Development Director. “They can then proceed to their destinations.”

Wassel spends much of her time traveling to air cargo conferences worldwide explaining the exemption. “It was slow to get it going but it’s happening now,” says Wassel.

Using this special exemption 747s can be seen parked wing tip to wing tip at the Lynx Cargo Port on the North Ramp at the airport several times weekly. Trans-loading between Polar Air Cargo, Atlas/DHL, Kalitta Air, and Southern Air by Swissport International, Pegasus Aviation Services, and FEAM ground crews has tugs and igloos swapping cargo from one jet to the other.

The USDOT exemption championed by the late Senator Ted Stevens while in office is not widely believed or fully understood by international carriers who doubt that they would be exempt from charges of “cabotage” for enplaning another aircraft’s cargo.

Wassel and the staff at ANC have held three Anchorage Air Cargo Summits to educate and attract carriers to use the exemption at ANC. Consultants and officials from USDOT, the State of Alaska, freight forwarders, and officials from US Customs and the Transportation Security Administration have all made presentations to explain and to attract use of the exemption.

Korean Air, FedEx, and UPS freighters lined up on the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The Alaska International Airport System

Both the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports are included in the Alaska International Airport System. The airports have separate managers but share common goals of meeting the expectations of the system. Created in 1961, the Alaska International Airport System has the two airports using the International Airport Revenue Fund that shares expenses, is financially self-sufficient, and uses no state general funds.

The system is managed by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and sets system rates, fees, and policies for the signatory airlines by leases and agreements.

For concessions ANC is ranked third in the United States for dollars spent per enplaned passenger. Additionally, the airport ranked Number 8 in the United States in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey. With 361 employees who work around the clock, it is obvious that this airport is well-liked and maintained by its employees.

To that point, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Police and Fire Department was awarded a special recognition from the Anchorage Fire Department in November 2016 for quickly saving the life of a passenger in the South Terminal who was having a heart attack.

“We are blessed that in every department at the airport we have an infrastructure that is well maintained—the terminal, the field, police and fire, leasing—everyone is moving toward the common goal of making our airport a pleasant and safe experience,” Parrott reflects.


ANC’s International Carriers

  • Air Canada—(Seasonal) South Terminal Passenger Operations
  • Air China—(Transit Only) Cargo Operations
  • Asiana Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • Cargolux Airlines Int’l SA—Cargo Operations
  • Cathay Pacific Airways*—Cargo Operations
  • China Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • China Cargo Airlines LTD.—Cargo Operations
  • China Southern Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • Condor—(Seasonal) North & South Terminal Passenger Charter Operations
  • Eva Air—Cargo Operations
  • Great Wall Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • Icelandair—North & South Terminal Passenger Operations
  • Jade Cargo—Cargo Operations
  • Japan Air Charter—Charter Operations
  • Japan Airlines—North Terminal Passenger Charter Operations
  • Korean Air—North Terminal Passenger & Cargo Operations
  • Nippon Cargo Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • Shanghai Airlines Cargo Int’l—Cargo Operations
  • Singapore Airlines—Cargo Operations
  • Yangtze River Express—Cargo Operations
  • Yakutia Airlines—(Seasonal) North Terminal Passenger Operations


This article first appeared in the February 2017 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.

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