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Posted on Nov 20, 2017 in Latest Department News

HONOLULU – The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report analyzing the recent and future trends in the air cargo industry.
The report highlights major changes in the air cargo industry in the past 15 years, which shows that inbound air cargo volume from the U.S. mainland jumped in 2002 due to e-commerce and has been at that high level ever since. The volume of airmail from the U.S. mainland dropped significantly at about the same time. More air cargo carriers have entered the market and carry majority of the air cargo volumes rather than using the belly of passenger planes.

“We are happy to see that the volume of interisland air cargo and mail has increased and remained elevated during the past 15 years, said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “We hope the data and analysis will help the transportation industry and policymakers.”

“Air cargo plays an important role in Hawaii’s economy by transporting merchandise to and from Hawaii quickly and in its original quality,” said Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian. “This report is not a study of the economic impact of the air cargo industry; it describes the changes in this industry between 1990 and 2016 and the driving forces for the changes.

Some of the interesting facts in this report include:

  • The air cargo industry in Hawaii had 852 employees in 2016, experiencing 978.5 percent growth in employment between 2001 and 2016. The weighted average hourly wage for cargo workers was $37.47 per hour, higher than the state average hourly pay rate of $23.76 in 2016.
  • The top commodities shipped to Hawaii by air included electronics, precision instruments, miscellaneous manufactured products, machinery, motorized vehicles, transport equipment, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and meat/seafood.
  • The top commodities shipped out of Hawaii by air included agricultural products, chemical products, machinery, miscellaneous manufactured products, transport equipment, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, and precision instruments.
  • In 2002, air cargo destined for Hawaii from out-of-state locations increased by 55 percent over the previous year and since then, inbound cargo overtook outbound cargo. One of the primary drivers for the large increase in the inbound air-cargo was e-commerce.
  • From 1990 to 2016, total inbound air cargo and mail increased by 2.72 percent per year on average. The increase in inter-island air cargo and mail shipments was even more pronounced, increasing by about 4.86 percent per year on average. In contrast, during the same period, outbound tonnage increased by a mere 0.59 percent per year on average.
  • Hawaii’s inbound air cargo from international destinations increased on average at about 2 percent per year, and air cargo from Hawaii to international destinations increased by about 1 percent per year. However, domestic inbound air cargo, increased by just under 9 percent per year since 2000. This is a sharp contrast to outbound cargo for mainland destinations, which increased at an average of 1.4 percent per year during the same period. However, the volume for domestic outbound air cargo are larger than those for international inbound and outbound.
  • It is also notable that international air mail bound for Hawaii dropped from just more than 2,000 tons in 1990 to about 177 tons in 2012; reaching a low level, and then recovering somewhat during the period between 2012 and 2016.
  • In the 1990s, a majority of air cargo was shipped in the belly of passenger planes. Today, more freight is being shipped by cargo-only carriers such as Atlas Air, UPS, FedEx, Kalitta Air, Asia Pacific, ABX Air, along with Aloha Air Cargo, and Rhoades Aviation (Transair and Transair Express), with the latter two being more active in the inter-island air cargo transportation.
  • The top international destination airport for Hawaii’s air cargo was Sydney, Australia, followed by Auckland, Hong Kong, Tokyo (Narita), and Vancouver. It is important to note that, according to Qantas Airlines, very little air cargo actually originates in Hawaii. Therefore, Honolulu airport acts as an air cargo hub for the goods being trans-shipped from the mainland to Australia and other locations in the Pacific.
  • Four out of the top five international airports for Hawaii-bound air cargo were Japanese airports: Tokyo (Narita), Tokyo (Haneda), Kansai, and Nagoya. Seoul-Incheon in Korea is in the fourth place, and the only non-Japanese airport.
  • A majority of Hawaii’s domestic outbound air cargo goes to California airports. The only non-California airport in the top five domestic destinations was Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.
  • The inter-island air cargo market is largely served by two Hawaii-based airlines: Aloha Air Cargo and Transair (Rhoades Aviation). FedEx, the top airline for both Hawaii inbound and outbound air cargo, is a relatively small player in the inter-island air cargo market, accounting for under 3 percent of the market.
  • The top 5 airlines for both Hawaii inbound and outbound air cargo markets are, along with FedEx and UPS, Kalitta Air, Atlas Air, and Hawaiian Airlines.
  • While air cargo accounts for about 8 percent of Hawaii’s total inbound cargo weight and about 18 percent of all outbound cargo weight, it comprises approximately 21 percent of the total value of cargo shipped for both inbound and outbound (including air and ocean). Inter-island air cargo shipments account for less than ¼ of a percent, but about 12 percent in value of the total cargo shipped within Hawaii.
  • According to Boeing, world air cargo traffic will grow 4.2 percent per year, more than doubling in its size over the next 20 years. Air freight, including express traffic, will average 4.3 percent annual growth. Airmail traffic will grow more slowly, averaging 1.7 percent annual growth through 2035.

The full report is available at:

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