Who doesn’t enjoy going to the airport to greet an old friend?
On Monday, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways returned to Pittsburgh International Airport to start a five-month cargo contract in partnership with global logistics and freight forwarding company Unique Logistics.
Flights originating in Vietnam and carrying garments will arrive twice weekly through the end of the year, according to PIT officials.
Cathay first arrived at PIT last year for three months of cargo service carried on Boeing 777-300ER converted passenger jets. The success of that contract was a significant factor in starting the new one, said Marc Schlossberg, executive vice president of air cargo & sales/marketing for Unique.
“It’s the geographic location, community support, the operational efficiencies that are allowing us to return service from Vietnam with Cathay Pacific to the Pittsburgh area,” he said.
Cathay joins Qatar Airways, SpiceXpress and Amazon Air in PIT’s growing cargo business, which also features several daily flights from FedEx and UPS.
And with shorter shipping runs from carriers like National Airlines, Finnair and Volga Dnepr, the arrow continues pointing skyward for Pittsburgh’s air cargo success, said Bryan Dietz, Senior Vice President, Air Service and Commercial Development.
“We’re excited to see Cathay Pacific return to Pittsburgh International Airport with the help of Unique Logistics,” he said. “We are thrilled to have partnerships with both of these companies that are demonstrating how Pittsburgh offers an easier and more efficient shipping solution for their customers.”
PIT recorded its best month for air cargo in a year in June, moving more than 20 million pounds of freight and mail for a 33 percent jump over the same month in 2020. In fact, the airport has seen a double-digit increase in year-over-year service in six of the last seven months.
That growing traffic has a ripple effect throughout the local economy, airport officials said.
“We are happy to welcome back such a well-respected international cargo carrier. Cathay Pacific returning to PIT represents yet another carrier contributing to a growing cargo ecosystem,” said Vince Gastgeb, Senior Vice President, Corporate & Government Relations.
“The generation of new jobs that have been created and businesses moving freight through PIT have been a benefit to our region,” he said. “We are proud to play a part in this economic infrastructure with our cargo growth turning PIT into a regional logistical center that we had envisioned.”
Airlines and logistics companies alike have consistently praised PIT’s ability to speedily unload cargo and get it on trucks to distribution centers, a valuable trait in a business where time quite literally costs money.
Traditional cargo gateways are often swamped, creating a backlog that keeps cargo sitting for days waiting to be processed or available for delivery. Every minute that cargo isn’t being moved to its final destination incurs further expenses.
PIT’s reputation for efficiency has reverberated even outside the cargo industry as government leaders have taken notice.
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded PIT an $18.69 million BUILD grant to support the construction of a 75,000-square-foot cargo processing facility and an adjacent surface parking lot to expand air cargo operations. And this spring, the state awarded its own $2.5 million grant to assist the development of what the airport has dubbed the Cargo 4 project.
Scheduled to open in 2024, Cargo 4 will allow PIT to accept freight from abroad and distribute it throughout North America, making Western Pennsylvania more competitive in a growing industry and positioning the airport as a gateway for global logistics.
The facility includes 75,000 square feet of warehouse space and 7,300 square feet of office space across two floors. The building will feature 18 loading docks for trucks; most will come with dock levelers while others will be used specifically for Unit Loading Devices (ULDs). Flatbed trucks will be able to access the interior of the warehouse, which is advantageous in poor weather.