For more than four years, a KLM flight direct from Amsterdam has been bringing precious goods to and from Edmonton.
Passengers, of course, in addition to the all-important cargo.
“Cargo has a huge impact to the economy — more than a passenger flight does,” said Myron Keehn, vice-president of air service and commercial development at Edmonton International Airport.
“Cargo can make a difference between a passenger flight making sense or not, because a lot moves in the belly of an aircraft.”
The better the cargo business, the more likely routes like KLM’s stay in Edmonton.
“Cargo volumes in Edmonton are doing very well,” said Keehn. “We’re up almost five per cent year-over-year in a world economy that has about a six per cent decline in cargo.”
As Edmontonians arrive home, a flyover of the southeast corner of EIA shows a significant change from the canola fields that stood there five years ago.
The new Rosenau Acropolis and Air Canada Cargo warehouses offer up several hundred thousand square feet of expanded cargo facilities, while a new Shell fueling station increases service capacity to cargo aircraft.
Nestled in the heart of the cargo village is BBE Expediting.
“We moved into this facility at the end of 2014, which doubled our footprint in Edmonton,” said president Heather Stewart. “When we moved in, we didn’t think we’d have enough volume to fit it and every day it’s full.”
Cargo traffic at EIA has grown 18 per cent over the past decade, according to the airport authority.
Though Statistics Canada shows all Edmonton exports hitting a five-year low in 2016, they’ve been steadily increasing ever since.
“When products are moving, generally it’s a good sign the economy is moving as well,” said Stewart.
A strong 2019 is expected, with inbound and outbound cargo volume growth of nearly five per cent over the past 12 months at EIA.
BBE has expanded its online freight services to keep up with the growth of multi-modal transportation in Canada, especially to the north.
They’ve also ensured their cold storage capabilities can meet demand. Some of the best growth lately has been in the areas of food and pharmaceuticals.
“We’ve been trying to build up our resources and scale accordingly so it’s been really exciting,” said Stewart.
The airport is in the process of becoming the only Canadian airport with the International Air Transport Association’s certificate for Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV), otherwise known as the international gold standard for pharmaceutical air shipping.
Keehn says this move helps position Edmonton as the northern leader in cold-chain and pharmaceutical shipping.
“Transportation is so vital to our economy, such a large piece of our economy and we as the airport like to play our small part to help grow that,” said Keehn.