Disappointment in St. Louis
On Sept. 23 Lambert-St. Louis International Airport celebrated the first of what officials hoped would be a continuous stream of weekly, direct all-cargo flights operated by China Cargo Airlines.
The inaugural Boeing 747-400 flight carried between 80 to 100 tons of high-value manufactured goods and left for Shanghai with outbound cargo.
The arrival of China Cargo Airlines, a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines, came after years of negotiations between the airport, China Airlines and a coalition of area business leaders on a two-year lease for cargo space at Lambert.
Local officials were excited that the new arrangement connected St. Louis to the global economy.
Well, it was nice while it lasted. After a second flight, China Cargo canceled flights each week through press time in early November, according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch.
What happened? Apparently demand was lower than expected.
Air freight out of Asia to North America has softened along with consumer demand, and sharply lower ocean rates may be peeling off some shippers that normally use air. Demand has declined for several months year-over-year and in September air cargo in the Asia-Pacific region, usually a leader, was down 6.3 percent. For the first nine months of the year, Asia-Pacific freight traffic declined 4.1 percent.
It probably didn’t help that the Missouri legislature failed to pass a tax credit designed to make the route more financially viable.
It’s possible that the tax credit could be revived next session, but as the Post-Dispatch points out there’s a chicken-and-egg dynamic going on here. Without cargo planes coming during what is normally considered the peak season how will lawmakers be convinced that a subsidy is justified?
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