A multimodal freight hub in the heart of Europe

Airport Leipzig/Halle, Uwe Schossig

Leipzig/Halle Airport, which also focuses on the Chinese market

Leipzig/Halle International Airport, situated on the border between the eastern German federal states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, has developed into one of the leading freight hubs in Europe. It convinces with its 24/7 operations for freight flights, its direct connections to the trans-European road and rail networks, its space- and capacity reserves, as well as the comprehensive logistics services it offers from one single source. In 2017, Europe's fifth-biggest freight hub registered approximately 1.14 million tonnes of air freight, an increase of 8.2% compared with the previous year, a volume which has increased more than eightfold in the last ten years. Leipzig/Halle Airport is therefore the second biggest airport for freight in Germany – and it is continuing to grow. "LEJ" operates as a modern and efficient gateway for the region of Central Germany – and for the global business and tourism markets.

The leading location in the global DHL network

It is at night that the European Air Hub of the postal freight subsidiary DHL – situated at Leipzig/Halle Airport – comes alive. On working days, over 60 DHL Express aircraft land at the airport at regular intervals. The freight aircraft are unloaded on the apron and their contents move to the adjacent airport sorting centre, where the conveyor belts hum over several levels and the parcels race through the hall; here, they are sorted on fully automatic basis before being packaged into other containers which are then reloaded onto the aircraft that are waiting outside. The system is able to process some 150,000 shipments per hour.  Freight items weighing up to 170 kilograms can be handled fully automatically on the conveyor belts. DHL has been operating its European Hub at Leipzig/Halle Airport for ten years. It is now the global player’s most important location in the world. DHL Express has invested a total of 655 million Euros in the airport and currently has more than 4,900 employees.

Germany's second biggest freight airport – well on the way to becoming number one

With its European Air Hub, in 2017, the volume of freight handled at Leipzig/Halle Airport increased for the thirteenth consecutive year to reach more than 1.1 million tonnes. The Central German airport, which nestles on the border of the two federal states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony and has the international airport code "LEJ", is therefore the second biggest freight airport in Germany and among the top five in Europe – and is continuing to expand. "With an increase of more than eight percent, our air freight volume recorded the biggest rate of expansion among the major German freight airports. Our growth has been boosted by our express freight business in particular, and our freight and special charter business is also developing at an exceptionally rapid rate," explains Johannes Jähn, Spokesman of the Executive Board of the company Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG and Managing Director of Leipzig/Halle Airport. The airport is Central Germany’s gateway for the worldwide markets. The freight traffic is flown to more than 200 airports, including destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Delhi, Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati. In addition to DHL, more than 60 freight airlines use Leipzig/Halle Airport. The primary focus is on the Chinese market. The present schedule of flights includes six connections to China per week. The airport also cooperates with a variety of partner airports in China, such as the Shenzhen Airport Group, the Shanghai Airport Authority and the Chinese Henan Province Airport Group.

Perfectly connected – 24 hours a day

Leipzig/Halle Airport GmbH is a subsidiary company of Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG. The federal state of Saxony-Anhalt is its second largest shareholder.  Opened in 1927, Leipzig/Halle Airport is one of the oldest airports in Germany. It is only since 1990, however, that decisive efforts have been made – particularly by the two federal states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt – to make the airport in the heart of Europe into one of the most modern airports in Europe. Today, it is a mainstay of the local economy, with more than 8,600 people working at over 100 companies and public authorities that are located at the airport. And there are many reasons for the success of Leipzig/Halle as a freight airport. An important factor is the airport’s 24-hour operating permit for air freight traffic, which has allowed logistics companies and airlines to operate flexibly as part of the global market. Also of importance are the airport’s location in the heart of Europe, its excellent infrastructure and its exemplary combination of rail, road and air links. In this respect, Leipzig/Halle Airport has its own railway station for the handling of air freight. The trains operate every day, and have connected the region with ports such as Bremerhaven and Hamburg since 2016. The volume of rail freight handled exceeded 160,000 tonnes in the first year alone. The passenger and freight facilities are also connected directly with the trans-European road and rail networks.

Transhipment point for sophisticated goods

Leipzig/Halle Airport is expanding its infrastructure and services all the time.  Since last year, for example, the airport and its sister company PortGround have been operating a cold storage facility which is capable of handling full aircraft cargoes of temperature-sensitive goods. The extended range of logistics services on offer at the airport is aimed at companies operating in the pharmaceutical, food and semiconductor industries in Germany and Eastern Europe in particular. The airport in Central Germany has also made a leading international name for itself in niche segments, such as the handling of oversized air freight and chartered freight traffic, which plays a particularly important role, as well as the transport of large animals. In this respect, planes carrying up to 165 cattle take off from the airport on a regular basis, and the airport is also home to an Animal Export Centre.

Moreover, there are few other airports at which the “Antonov 225”, the biggest aircraft in the world, has made so made appearances. This giant-sized aeroplane has “swallowed up” cargoes of freight weighing up to 160 tonnes, before taking off from the airport, more than 20 times. The everyday picture at the airport also includes the Antonov 124, operated by Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines. The Antonov 124 is the biggest series-production freight aircraft in the world and has been making regular visits since 2006.

In April, the German federal government announced its intention to extend the landing rights for freight aircraft at the airport. The airport is also set to receive general designation as a landing point in international aviation agreements. This would make the "LEJ" the number one airport for freight traffic in the whole of Germany. Airport Director Johannes Jähn is looking forward to this development and to welcoming more freight aircraft. "Leipzig/Halle Airport has a big advantage compared with all of its competitors: we’ve got plenty of space in which to expand and develop,” he says. And that is a major competitive advantage.

 Author: Michael Falgowski

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