JFK capacity crunch gets reprieve with approval for cargo expansion 

Today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved the second phase of a cargo infrastructure expansion plan at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The project is meant to maintain JFK’s position as a major destination for international cargo by alleviating the crunch on capacity that cargo handlers are currently experiencing at the airport. 

In this second phase of JFK’s cargo infrastructure expansion, JFK Air Cargo has signed a new 31-year lease agreement with plans to construct a new air cargo handling facility on 16.2 acres of property in the airport’s North Cargo Area. The new facility will increase the available capacity for cargo at the airport by 200,000 tonnes and is expected to generate 5,400 regional jobs.  

Details on whether the terminal will include any special technology or space for temperaturesensitive and specialized cargo has not yet been determined. Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in approximately 24 months. 

JFK Air Cargo is investing $70 million investment on the part of JFK Air Cargo. The Port Authority will contribute up to $13 million toward site preparation work and roadway improvements prior to construction, including a new truck “turn-around” that will allow additional traffic to enter and exit the North Cargo Area at JFK more easily. 

The upcoming expansion continues the strengthening of infrastructure at JFK. Phase one of the airport’s cargo modernization effort began in 2017, when the Port Authority board approved Aero JFK II LLC for a long-term lease and construction of a 346,000squarefoot handling facility. Construction of this facility, as well as the reconstruction of Taxiways CA and CB, also authorized in 2017, are already under way.  

JFK handled over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2018 – making it the seventhbusiest cargo airport in North America, but providers have little room to grow operations at the congested airport due to lack of available space. Other airports with similar issues have been losing cargo providers to small and mediumsized airports as a result of failing to accommodate their growing needs for cargo infrastructure expansion.  

While this threat from smaller airports could be the case for cargo providers at JFK, it is not likely, as there is a general lack of other facilities  in the northeastern United States with adequate cargo infrastructure and catchment zone. For example, although Rickenbacker (LCK) is a potential alternative, it is not necessarily ideal for companies already with operations concentrated in New York, as LCK sits at the edge of the viable catchment zone for the Eastern Seaboard.  

Therefore, although it is too early to determine the lasting impact of this new facility construction at JFK, the approval of the second phase is likely a welcome option for stakeholders in air cargo at the airport seeking increased room upgrades from outdated infrastructure.  

China Airlines, Swissport and Worldwide Freight Services (WFS) have been contacted for comment on this new development at JFK but have yet to respond. 

Beyond these new plans for JFK’s second phase of cargo infrastructure expansion, the airport also recently welcomed expanded freighter services from MNG Airlines, as well as WFS and Swiss WorldCargo’s launch of their first Good Distribution Practice-certified pharmaceutical facility at JFK. 

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