Halifax airport sees rise in cargo flight traffic


A new facility at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport is currently under construction — and it’s already creating a rise in air freight traffic.

During a typical week in the winter, the airport might see only around 25 cargo planes. Over the last month, dozens of additional cargo planes have landed at the airport just outside of Halifax.

“We are seeing about 25 to 30 per cent more cargo flights here at the airport,” Leah Batstone, spokesperson for the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA), said. “That’s the increase we saw in March and it’s in comparison to 2019 which would’ve been our last sort of normal year for cargo.”

One reason for the rise in traffic is the airport’s new Air Cargo Logistics Park which is being built along Highway 102 on 10 hectares of vacant land.

While it’s currently under construction, some of the aprons — which is where the airplanes park — at the facility have already opened.

“So, we’re seeing the impacts of that already with some additional flights arriving here for several reasons,” Batstone told NEWS 95.7’s The Rick Howe Show. “Whether it’s a technical stop or an increase in export flights taking seafood to international markets or imports, they all can sort of be attributed to this increase in activity.”

Currently, the airport has three new cargo aprons — separated from the passenger flights — that are open and allowing more flights to land. Two more are under construction.

Before the construction of the new aprons, many types of cargo planes never landed in Halifax because there wasn't enough room.

“It is great news,” Batstone said. “The thing about the Air Cargo Logistics Park is that it’s really there for the community and for the businesses that want to have air cargo shipped across Canada, to the States or to international markets.

“It’s great to see that the community, the businesses are already benefitting from this facility being open.”

Each apron can handle a Boeing 747-400 freighter which can carry about the same amount of cargo as five transport trucks.

Batstone it’s interesting the airport is seeing more cargo flights compared to passenger flights since that’s usually never the case.

She also said both the airport and the airport authority don’t “generate a lot of revenue” from the Air Cargo Logistics Park.

However, the rise in cargo flights doesn’t close the financial gap the airport is currently experiencing due to the lack of passenger air travel.

“It’s really great news for the local economy, it’s great news for recovery for the economy as we deal with the pandemic,” she said. “But for the airport authority, we’re still seeing quite a significant decrease in our revenue due to the lack of passenger traffic right now.”

The construction of the facility is set to cost $36 million. HIAA spent $13 million and the province chipped in $5 million.

The federal government spent $18 million through its National Trade Corridors Fund — a $2.3 billion fund that helps fund infrastructure projects across Canada.

The entire facility is expected to be up and running by the end of this year.

Batsone said HIAA expects the new facility to have long-term benefits.

For instance, the province saw record years of growth particularly with seafood — mainly lobster — being exported to Asia and Europe.

She also said e-commerce, such as the rise in purchasing products from Amazon, has helped with the rise of cargo plane traffic to the facility.

“A lot of those goods are coming in through our facility, and so that’s expected to likely not go away anytime soon, even once we recover from the pandemic,” she said. “This facility will have a lasting impact on the economy for Nova Scotia but also for the entire region.”