Home Airport Spotting Guide Which Are the Best Airports to See Cargo Planes?

Which Are the Best Airports to See Cargo Planes?

by Matt Falcus

The world of air freight has expanded massively since the outbreak of Covid-19.

While passenger travel has dropped to historic lows, cargo airlines have become very busy and passenger carriers have been converting their regular airliners into freighters in a bid to cash in on the demand.

As a result, spotters can expect to see plenty of freighters and converted airliners flying all around the world, delivering essential supplies and keeping up with the insatiable demand for ecommerce!

Most air freight goes through hub airports where it is processed and sent for onward delivery by road, or sometimes by regional freight airlines.

These are the best airports to see cargo planes:

 

East Midlands

DHL East Cargo Ramp

While London Heathrow traditionally handles more cargo, largely as belly freight on airliners, East Midlands is the UK’s largest and busiest dedicated cargo facility and sees the most freighter aircraft. It is a hub for DHL, UPS and FedEx and sees many ad-hoc freighter aircraft, too.

 

Liege

ER-BBE | B747-4D7(BCF) | Aerotranscargo (ROM Cargo)

A regional airport in Belgium, Liege is another busy freight hub. It sees many worldwide cargo airlines, like AirBridgeCargo, Air China, CAL Cargo Air Lines, Ethiopian Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo passing through. It is also a hub for ASL Airlines.

 

Anchorage Ted Stevens International

FedEx at Anchorage

Departing Runway 34 Anchorage.

Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, briefly became the world’s busiest airport at the start of the first lockdown period in mid-2020. Already a big cargo hub and transit point between Asia and North America, Anchorage grew with many more freighters passing through.

As well as large widebody airliners, Anchorage sees lots of vintage aircraft, like the Douglas DC-6, DC-9 and Curtiss C-46 operating local freight flights.

 

Louisville

IMG_2158

The world hub for UPS Airline. Louisville International Airport in Kentucky is known as Worldport and sees much of the airline’s freight transit through while travelling between other points around the country and globe.

 

Memphis

N375FE FedEx | McDonnell Douglas MD-10-10F | Memphis International Airport

Like Louisville, Memphis is the world hub for FedEx. This massive freight airline has waves of freighters passing through (mostly during the night), linking from points all across the globe, as well as from regional airports in the USA.

 

Amsterdam Schiphol

Schiphol Airport is a major passenger hub in Europe, but it’s also one of the continent’s busiest cargo airports.

Freighters from around the world fly in every day, with dedicated aprons on the south eastern side of the airport where you’ll usually see these parked up during the day.

 

Dubai International

A6-EFL, 777-F1H, cn 42230, ln 1138, Emirates SkyCargo, DXB 280913, adj(3)

Dubai International is still a busy cargo hub, despite Al Maktoum’s Dubai World Central now being in operation. As well as Emirates SkyCargo freight, the airport handles freighters from around the world and Middle East.

 

 

Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Cargo at Hong Kong. Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong is still the world’s busiest cargo airport. When you visit, as well as the many passenger airlines and local carrier Cathay Pacific, you’ll see lots of large freighters passing through. It just adds to the appeal of spotting at this busy Asian hub airport.

 

Miami International

N345UP

Miami International has always been the USA’s gateway to and from Central and South America, plus the islands of the Caribbean. This is a major draw for passenger flights, and also attracts cargo carriers transiting freight to the region. Often this leads to some more unusual cargo airlines not seen at other cargo hubs. Sometimes you’ll also see some older types of aircraft, often used on humanitarian flights (but these commonly use nearby airports like Opa Locka).

 

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky

DHL Cincinnati

This airport is the world hub for DHL, with a huge facility to service its cargo aircraft transiting through. Cincinnati has also recently become a hub for Amazon’s Prime Air and its growing freight business. Between the two airlines, there are now hundreds of daily cargo aircraft movements, and this is expected to grow.

 

Los Angeles International

Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

West Coast USA’s busiest airport for cargo (not counting Anchorage) is Los Angeles International, LAX. Freighters usually operate from the south side. Around 30 dedicated cargo carriers fly into Los Angeles, making it a good place for variation and seeing airlines you don’t often see elsewhere.

 

Cologne Bonn

Photo (c) Spencer Bennett

A large and busy cargo hub airport in Germany, Cologne/Bonn is a hub for FedEx and UPS, and many other partner airlines use the airport. They usually fly during the night, but often remain parked up during the day and can be seen from the viewing terrace on the passenger terminal.

 

Frankfurt International

Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

Germany’s busiest airport for passengers also sees its fair share of freighter movements – usually large widebodies from Asia, the Middle East and North America. They normally park up on the south side of the airport, so are visible (but too far to photograph) from the viewing terrace on Terminal 2.

 

Paris CDG

Boeing 747-8F Qatar Cargo A7-BGA

Europe’s main hub for FedEx Express is at Paris Charles de Gaulle. Its movements usually happen late at night, linking in from all over Europe. The airport also sees plenty of other cargo operations, like those of Air France Cargo and other worldwide airlines.

 

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4 comments

tschaua July 13, 2021 - 10:17 am

i think you forgot LUX airport, home of Cargolux airlines. it is also served by Qatar Airways Cargo, China Airlines Cargo and Silkway Airlines.

Reply
Matt Falcus July 13, 2021 - 10:36 am

Great suggestion! Luxembourg is a big cargo hub.

Reply
Joe Rees GB July 15, 2021 - 6:27 am

Thanks for this Matt,I was asking someone the other day about freight movements and what they carry, this guy was based near Doncaster which was the old Finningly RAF base near Sheffield.They have a lot of Silkway coming in from Africa ..As i am retired plenty of time to sit and watch them flying over me .

Reply
Darren Scott July 15, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Shanghai Pudong

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