Cargo Is Big Business For RFD

Jan 15, 2018

Credit Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

This was a spectacular holiday season for the nation’s cargo carriers. The International Air Transport Association says 2017 was the busiest in seven years. It’s not just the big airports that are benefiting.

The Chicago/Rockford International Airport is reaping years of infrastructure investments and cargo-carrier courting. More than a billion pounds of cargo moved through the airport last year: That’s up about 50% from the previous year.

Ken Ryan, the airport’s director of business development and cargo, expects more growth this year, though maybe not quite at that pace. He said, “We would like to become a leading hub in North America for direct to consumer shipments, whether they originate in the U.S. or abroad.”

Ryan said, in the public’s eyes, cargo is the “forgotten cousin” compared to passenger service.

“It’s actually profitable for the airport because we get so many landings,” he said. “And that’s how we earn most of our revenue -- landing fees. And it’s profitable for the region because there are so many jobs.”

Most of the increase can be credited to additional flights at the UPS hub, which is the company’s second largest in North America. But three smaller cargo carriers also increased their numbers of weekly flights to keep up with “direct to consumer” demand.

But an airport does not live on cargo alone. Ryan said he continues to pursue low-cost international airlines to offer more passenger service at RFD.