Lufthansa is expanding cargo operations at Detroit Metro Airport

View of the Detroit Airport terminal and control tower.

A new cargo facility will be built at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, seen here on July 13, to support Lufthansa Cargo. (Photo: Shutterstock/The Global Guy)

Lufthansa Cargo has moved its cargo depot within the gateway to Detroit’s main airport to improve operational efficiency and support growing international volumes.

Companies moving goods with German airline Lufthansa through Detroit will save time and be able to offer a greater range of specialty products because cargo handling has moved to the terminal from a location outside the airport, eliminating the need for trucking in cargo.

Avflight, the local airport services operator that handles cargo shipments for Lufthansa, this month began leasing a 20,000-square-foot former hangar converted into a temporary warehouse and plans to develop a larger permanent terminal to house its Lufthansa business, the companies said. Announced Tuesday.

The relocation process shortens the distance for cargo delivery to and from aircraft, which reduces operating costs and allows Lufthansa to provide more capacity for special cargo, such as live animals, valuables and dangerous goods.

Besides streamlining operations, Lufthansa is seeking to create a larger facility as its import and export volumes are growing. The airline operates seven weekly passenger flights to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport which transports 500 tons of cargo annually. Detroit is an important destination for Lufthansa because of Michigan’s large auto industry. Among the major trading partners are Germany and other countries in Europe, South Africa and Thailand. Lufthansa’s freight division, which manages freight for the airline, also transports freight between Detroit and Chicago by truck.

Lufthansa Airlines operates a large fleet of wide-body aircraft, such as the Airbus A330. (Photo: Jim Allen/Free Waves)

“Together with Avflight, we are creating an ideal foundation with a future-oriented freight location in Detroit to further position ourselves in the market as a reliable and professional partner for our freight customers… by investing in state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as cost-effectiveness,” said Stephanie Abler, Vice President. Head of Americas Region, Lufthansa Cargo, Handling operations are time efficient.

Avflight has a ground lease with the airport authority allowing it to build a new cargo facility next to the existing structure. Lufthansa Cargo will assist in the design of a fast-flowing warehouse for optimal efficiency and the ability to process premium products. Lufthansa Cargo said the permanent site is tentatively scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024.

Garrett Hein, Avflight’s vice president of finance, said in an email that project discussions, including the full scope and total investment, are still in the preliminary stages between Avflight, Lufthansa Cargo and the airport.

Detroit is the latest example of airlines and cargo companies turning to secondary airports to support the cargo business to improve efficiency, service and cost. A report released this month by researchers at DePaul University shows that cargo-focused airports have outperformed large passenger gates in terms of cargo volume over the past four years. Metro Detroit is not considered a designated cargo airport because it has limited cargo operations and is a hub for Delta Air Lines, but Lufthansa’s investment there suggests it has a better future cargo capacity and speed of handling than larger airports such as Chicago. O’Hare.

Similarly, logistics companies DSV and Kuhne+Nagel are taking advantage of hangars to temporarily house their new cargo operations at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama, respectively, until permanent facilities are built.

Privately owned Avflight, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, operates 25 small airports and provides ground services to airlines.

Click here for more FreightWaves and American Shipper articles by Eric Kulish.

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