Many international airports have a specific focus on cargo operations, either instead of or in addition to their passenger services. Here we list our top 10 best cargo airports in the world.
This list is not in order of the busiest or largest cargo airports in the world, although most here are on that list. It is instead a list of the best airports for the enthusiast to see lots of interesting cargo airliners.
Most cargo movements are at night and therefore spotting at cargo airports is a nocturnal activity if you want to see the aircraft moving. You may, however, see them parked up during the day.
Anchorage Ted Stevens International
Hub for: Alaska Airlines, Alaska Central Express, Atlas Air, FedEx Express, Polar Air Cargo, UPS Airlines
Other notable airlines: Cathay Pacific Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, Everts Air, Korean Air Cargo, Nippon Cargo Airlines
Anchorage has long been a staging post between Asia, North America and Europe. Its business today is built largely around cargo operations, with the number of cargo airlines serving the airport far outweighing passenger airlines. This is also helped by local carriers staging supplies to Alaska’s remote communities through Anchorage.
You’ll mostly see large Boeing 747 freighters here, although many other types are common including some fantastic piston types.
Hub for: DHL Aviation
Other notable airlines: Atlantic Airlines/West Atlantic, ASL Airlines, Etihad Cargo, Jet2, TNT, UPS
A regional and low-cost airport in passenger terms, East Midlands is also one of the UKs largest dedicated cargo hub airports. It has a large DHL facility at the western end of the airport, whilst UPS and other carriers use facilities at the eastern end.
One of the best places to spot from is the area near the access gate along Diseworth Road in Castle Donington. You can see the DHL apron and runway from here.
Hub for: AeroLogic, DHL Aviation
Other notable airlines: ABX Air, ASL Airlines, Kalitta Air, RAF-Avia, Swiftair
One of Germany’s two large cargo hubs, Leipzig Halle Airport is geared around the large DHL operation. Most of the cargo airlines operating here are flying for DHL. The cargo aprons and facilities occupy the southern portion of the airport.
There is a great viewing platform at Leipzig to spot from.
Hub for: TNT Airways, Ethiopian Airlines Cargo, Qatar Airways Cargo
Other notable airlines: CAL Cargo Airlines, El Al Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo, Icelandair Cargo
Whilst Brussels is also a busy cargo airport in Belgium, Liege is more interesting for the spotter as its movements are almost entirely cargo-related. It has some interesting airlines flying in, with the majority in conjunction with TNT’s large hub here.
Follow Rue de l’aeroport to reach a spot near the runway to view from.
Hub for: FedEx Express, UPS
Other notable airlines: ASL Airlines, Bluebird Cargo, MNG Airline, Star Air
One of the top cargo airports in the world, Cologne/Bonn handless large numbers of movements from main airlines FedEx and UPS through the central part of the airport to the east of the passenger terminals.
There is an observation platform on the passenger terminal with views across to the cargo area.
Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok
Hub for: Air Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Cargo, Kalitta Air, UPS
Other notable airlines: AirBridgeCargo Airline, Air France Cargo, Cargolux, DHL Aviation, Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Cargo, FedEx Express, MASKargo, Qantas Freight, ULS Cargo, Yangtze River Express
Consistently the world’s busiest cargo airport by freight handled and cargo aircraft movements. The list of cargo airlines flying here goes on and on – it’s mouth watering for the enthusiast, and given the good spotting opportunities at Hong Kong, you’ll have a good chance of seeing the aircraft. They do, however, park at a distance from the passenger terminal viewing areas.
Hub for: FedEx Express
Other notable airlines: Kalitta Air, Mountain Air Cargo
The world’s second busiest cargo hub thanks to it being the main base for FedEx Express and its global activities. The airline’s fleet is the dominant carrier here, and much of it will pass through the airport every week – particularly the larger airliners which feed other hubs. It’s more difficult to spot at Memphis these days, but worth visiting if you want to log FedEx!
The cargo area occupies the northern part of the airport. You can get some views from the roads around the airport.
Bogota El Dorado International
Hub for: Aerosucre, Avianca Cargo
Other notable airlines: Atlas Air, Cargolux, Centurion Air Cargo, LAN Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, Martinair Cargo, TAB Transportes Aereos Bolivianos
Not one of the busiest cargo airports in the world, but one of the most interesting. Bogota Airport supplies the rest of Colombia and parts of Latin and South America, and you’ll still see a number of older, more interesting aircraft types here, including the Boeing 727. So it is somewhere a little different from the run-of-the-mill airports you’d normally encounter.
It can be difficult to spot here, but the roads around the airport can be used. You can also see movements from within the terminal if you’re flying.
Hub for: UPS
Other notable airlines: Air Cargo Carriers, Ameriflight, Sky Lease Cargo
One of the top ten cargo airports in the world. Louisville is home to UPS Airlines which, like FedEx at Memphis, dominate the airport and sends much of its larger aircraft through every week. The huge cargo area occupies the central part of the airport, to the south of the passenger terminals.
Crittenden Drive at the western side of the airport is good for viewing, or you can also use the top floor of the car park.
Hub for: Nippon Cargo Airlines
Other notable airlines: ANA Cargo, FedEx Express, MASkargo, Singapore Airlines Cargo, Southern Air, Thai Cargo, UPS
Japan’s busiest cargo airport is Tokyo Narita. It is also one of the top ten busiest in the world, and sees lots of traffic from across the Pacific and Far East.
The cargo area at Narita is in the south west corner. It is not easily visible from the ground, but once aircraft move or use the runways they are easily seen from the excellent viewing facilities.
It’s hard to keep this list down to only ten interesting cargo airports when there are so many. Some others which are very good for cargo spotting are:
- Amsterdam Schiphol
- Los Angeles International
- Miami International
- Seoul Incheon
- Shanghai Pudong
- Dubai International
- Beijing Capital
- Frankfurt Main
- Frankfurt Hahn
- Singapore Changi
- Paris Charles de Gaulle