Freight hauling: VIA continues to rise among U.S. cargo airports

HARLINGEN — Valley International Airport is continuing its march up the charts when it comes to shipping cargo, airport officials say.

Marv Esterly, director of aviation for VIA, this past week told the airport board the last Federal Aviation Administration rankings of cargo airports as of 2018 showed the airport has moved to 71st in the nation in weight moved.

And while this year is not matching the previous year’s growth of 21.78 percent, so far for 2019 the airport’s cargo freight is increasing.

“Air cargo is also up for the year, 5.2 percent for the year,” he told the board.

Passenger traffic at VIA is also up this year, with July records indicating the airport saw 32,460 enplanements (passengers departing), a 17.2 percent increase over July 2018.

Overall passenger enplanements for the fiscal year which ends Sept. 30 totaled 293,551 through July, an increase of 13.1 percent over the same period the previous year.

The biggest air cargo hauler at Valley International, FedEx, was down 10.7 percent in July. Southwest Airlines cargo was up 7.5 percent, while ABX Air (DHL is its largest client) was up 16.4 percent.

FedEx is down, Esterly said, because one of its Boeing 757s is currently operating out of a different airport.

“That’s why you see a little dip in their numbers,” he said. “Some interesting things are happening with DHL (ABX Air). DHL actually upstaged the size of their aircraft from 757-200 to 757-300.

“That actually is a larger aircraft than they used in the past,” he added. “But in any case, what they’re doing, the way I understand it, is trucking a lot of their freight from Laredo to here and filling the one plane here that comes from Monterrey. When it gets here, that freight comes from the Valley as well as Laredo.”

Esterly told the board that when he arrived in 2014 to take over at VIA the airport ranked 83rd in the nation in cargo tonnage. Then it moved up to 77th and last year came in as the 71st-busiest in the nation, moving 366 million pounds of cargo, making the airport the ninth-busiest air cargo shipper in Texas.

He predicted that once the cargo numbers are in for 2019, VIA would continue its move up the list of busiest cargo airports in the nation.

Top cargo airports

Airport/rank Location Pounds landed Percentage change

1. Memphis International Tenn. 24.4 billion Up 2.02

2. Ted Stevens Anchorage Alaska 18.4 billion Up 6.21

3. Louisville Muhammad Ali Kentucky 14.6 billion Up 9.25

4. Miami International Florida 8.4 billion Up 5.45

5. Los Angeles International California 7.3 billion Up 1.65

9. Dallas-Fort Worth Texas 4.3 billion Up 3.57

18. George Bush Intl. Texas 2.2 billion Up 25.24

33. San Antonio Intl. Texas 922 million Up 9.23

34. Fort Worth Alliance Texas 922 million Up 1.96

38. El Paso International Texas 701 million Up 33.45

41. Laredo International Texas 674 million Up 14.77

51. Austin-Bergstrom Intl. Texas 536 million Down 2.18

69. Lubbock Preston Smith Texas 368 million Up 1.06

71. Valley International Texas 366 million Up 21.78

130. Brownsville-SPI Texas 7.6 million Down 67.04

Source: Federal Aviation Administration departing cargo numbers from 2018. Percentage change is from 2017. McAllen-Miller International Airport was not on the list of the top 138 airports for cargo.