Cargo numbers: Recovery ahead |

Cargo numbers: Recovery ahead

John Seelmeyer

As a rough rule of thumb, Brian Pratte says, the economic impact of an air cargo flight is 10 times greater than the impact of a passenger flight.

“Those boxes didn’t move themselves,” says Pratte, director air service and cargo development at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

And that translates into good news for the northern Nevada economy as the amount of cargo handled at the airport during March increased more than 19 percent from a year earlier.

In fact, cargo shipments through the airport have been up year-over-year for 14 consecutive months.

Two big trends hold promise of spurring air cargo traffic even further.

One is the rapid development of new Internet fulfillment operations in northern Nevada. In recent weeks, Urban Outfitters, Toys”R”Us and GSI Commerce all have announced plans for big new centers that will fill orders placed by online customers.

While many of those orders will travel by truck, history shows that air cargo operations will benefit as well.

One statistic tells the story: Most months, somewhere between 150 and 200 cargo flights land at Reno, about 10 flights each weekday.

But last December, when distribution at Fernley and Barnes and Noble distribution in Reno were filling holiday orders, the number of cargo flights topped 300.

A second factor that could drive air cargo growth is the major push undertaken by Pratte and other airport officials to open direct cargo service between Reno and Chinese destinations.

“We are very diligent about building capacity,” says Pratte.

He met with nearly three dozen Chinese shipping companies during a recent Asian visit, building their awareness of Reno as a potential gateway to U.S. markets.

A big sales pitch: A flight between Beijing and Reno is 300 fewer nautical miles than the trip between Beijing and Los Angeles. That can cut $4,000 from the fuel bill of a 747 cargo aircraft, even without accounting for traffic delays in the skies above Los Angeles.

Airport executives believe, too, that there’s potentially plenty of cargo to fill aircraft headed west from Reno to Asia. About 50 percent of the international air cargo from northern Nevada destinations currently is trucked to Los Angeles before it’s loaded on aircraft, Pratte says.

The availability of good air cargo service is an important element in attracting new jobs to the region, says Todd McKenzie of McKenzie Properties, a Reno-based developer of industrial, office and commercial properties.

“Air cargo is important for global trade and is used for transporting high-value-to-weight items in a timely manner,” says McKenzie. “Having a strong air cargo capability along with our rail, trucking and overall geographic location bodes well for our future economic growth. It enhances our overall distribution mix.”

Pratte notes that strong air cargo service at Reno-Tahoe International Airport ripples through a wide region.

The airport sees potential markets for air cargo within a one-day truck drive of Reno an area that includes parts of Oregon and Idaho as well as northern Nevada and the Sierra region of northern California.


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