British Airways Brings Belly Cargo to Cincinnati/N. Kentucky Airport

The airport is positioning itself to attract general cargo, bypassing crowded international gateways for faster turnarounds.

A hydraulic lift is used to unload cargo from a British Airways Boeing 787-9. [Credit: IAG Cargo]

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on

As the U.S. home base for Amazon Air and DHL Express, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (KCVG) moves large volumes of express shipments. Now the airport is positioning itself to attract general cargo carried by passenger and freighter operators interested in bypassing crowded international gateways for faster turnarounds.

Officials have arranged to process significant amounts of cargo to be carried by a new British Airways (LSE: IAG) passenger service and recently struck a deal with a private company to develop an air cargo warehouse facility with airside access on 4.5 acres of airport property.

British Airways is scheduled to launch nonstop service between London Heathrow and KCVG on Monday. Flights will operate five times a week utilizing Boeing 787-800 Dreamliners, switching to four times weekly on Boeing 777-200 aircraft during the winter season. Airline officials were drawn by the fact that Dayton’s population bleeds into the Cincinnati area and there are millions of people within a two-hour drive of KCVG.

British Airways selected Miami-based Alliance Ground International, a fast-growing airport services company backed by private equity, to provide warehousing and pallet buildup/breakdown and sorting. AGI is occupying a 15,000-square-foot building where staff will bring cargo offloaded from British Airways flights and send out exports. 

The only other carrier that provides trans-Atlantic service from KCVG is Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), which flies to Paris.

Although the route is ostensibly for passenger business, cargo opportunities likely factored into British Airways’ decision too. The 787-800 has room in the lower hold for more than 16 tons of cargo. Larger 777-200s can carry 22 tons of cargo and baggage. Stakeholders anticipate the new service will draw substantial interest for goods movement.

GE Aviation, aircraft engine maker Safran, Procter & Gamble, and drug and medical device research company Medpace Holdings all have headquarters and manufacturing sites in the Cincinnati area. Crane Worldwide Logistics has a 1 million-square-foot distribution center about 2 miles from the airport and is building another 600,000-square-foot facility nearby. Amazon Air and DHL Express have superhubs at KCVG, where they process millions of packages each week.

“While DHL Express maintains its own dedicated air network … the expanded commercial space that British Airways brings with its new service to [KCVG] will offer additional capacity to our express shipping network. This enhancement will benefit our customer shipments moving in both directions between the Americas and European regions,” said Joe Reusch, vice president of Americas network management at DHL Express, in a statement to FreightWaves. “It also facilitates more direct connectivity for the benefit of management teams that need to travel between our largest hub in the Americas region at [KCVG]and the extensive British Airways network.”

KCVG is a new location for Alliance Ground International, which has expanded its U.S. airport footprint over the past two years through a series of acquisitions. 

“The way Cincinnati is growing and with the freight forwarders in that area there are a lot of opportunities. So we’re very excited to be getting into that market,” said Warren Jones, AGI’s vice president of business development. 

Having a cargo agent with a large customer list and national footprint is a drawing card as the airport authority pursues other cargo airlines, said Simon Wood, director of air service development at KCVG. 

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky is the seventh-largest cargo airport in North America by tonnage, according to Airports Council International. More than 70 percent of the throughput is domestic freight, thanks to the Amazon facility.

In mid-May, KCVG officials struck a deal with Burrell Aviation on a master lease under which the Aspen, Colorado-based firm will invest a minimum of $20 million to develop an 80,000-square-foot air cargo transfer facility. Last year, the airport demolished old cargo facilities to make way for a new air logistics center on the northern end of the property. Construction planning is underway. 

“We’re expecting a lot of general air freight to take place in that new area. It’s got a huge apron on that side for large freighters. We’ve got great courier business but the missing piece here has been general airfreight and maximizing the belly freight that comes through here,” said Wood. 

Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population is within a day’s truck drive of KCVG. A new $3 billion bridge span between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, made possible by the 2022 federal infrastructure law, is designed to alleviate congestion on Interstates 71 and 75 crossing the Ohio River. The current bridge handles a large volume of daily truck traffic.

Many logistics companies are looking for alternatives to Chicago O’Hare and other major airports where it often take two or more days to retrieve cargo because of labor shortages, poor truck access, limited storage capacity and other factors.

Wood said there was room for KCVG to gain air cargo without detracting from cargo-focused Rickenbacker airport, less than two hours northeast in Columbus, Ohio.

IAG Cargo, the consolidated cargo business for British Airways and IAG Group airlines, declined to comment for this story.

For more coverage on air cargo, go to FreightWaves.

Eric is the Air Cargo Market Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at

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