Air cargo service exceeds expectations
Bob Montgomery Staff Writer @bmontgomeryshj
The new “Atlantic Bridge” air cargo service between GSP and Germany is such a success after just six round-trips that officials are talking about expanding the twice-weekly service to every other day. But before that happens, the airport will need to add more warehouse and apron space, airport officials said Monday. “These are all good problems for an airport to have,” said Kevin Howell, vice president and chief operating officer at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer.
Howell gave Airport Commission members an update Monday on how successful the Boeing 747-400 cargo jet has been since services began Nov.
5. “It’s turning out to be a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day operation,” he said. The service, launched by the German company Senator International, brings the plane to GSP with cargo from Europe on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The goods are then delivered to companies in the Upstate and elsewhere in the Southeast. Then outgoing cargo is kept in a warehouse at GSP and is then loaded onto the jet for the return trip to Germany. It takes three to four hours to unload and then load the cargo, Howell said.
In its first six flights, an estimated 1.5 million pounds of cargo was imported, and 1.3 million pounds exported, according to Howell. The biggest user by far has been BMW Manufacturing Co. in Greer. While the service has been an early success, it is also putting a strain on airport resources.
GSP’s own fixed-base operator, Cerulean Commercial Aviation, is the ground handler and may need more help than anticipated, Howell said. Also, warehouse space is limited and so is apron space, which is needed to park planes, he said. “Demand is outpacing capacity,” Howell said. “This is new.
Everybody’s still trying to learn.” He said the demand is so great that operating every other day instead of twice weekly might be possible — if the need for more warehouse and apron space is addressed first. Commission member Doug Smith suggested that the state, perhaps the Commerce Department, ought to consider helping to fund GSP’s expansion for the service.
GSP President and CEO David Edwards said the service is expected to produce an economic impact of up to £50 million. “Several new jobs in the Upstate have already been created, with more to come,” he said. “The importance of having international cargo service from the Upstate to Europe to support the existing international businesses in our community will only allow them to grow further and become even more efficient, and there is no question this new air service will help to attract new business to the Upstate.” Edwards said GSP is committed to meeting the demand for international cargo service.
“It’s been a learning experience for us and Senator,” he said. “We’ve gotten better with every operation.”