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E-commerce drives growth in Liege as Lufthansa Cargo doubles its commitment to China

© W. Scott Mcgill |

Europe’s concerns about a surge in e-commerce imports from China have failed to stem the flood.

Liège Airport, a key e-commerce hub in Europe, reported that tonnage increased by 15% to 566,117 tonnes in the first half of this year, while the number of freight movements increased by 12% to 12,987.

Last year, the airport, home to Challenge Group and a favorite destination for many cargo companies, recorded 1,005,676 tons of cargo throughput, and data from the first half of 2024 indicates that the airport will significantly increase its cargo throughput this year.

“Our portfolio of airlines (over 40) and logistics service providers (over 50) is growing, and the arrival of Hong Kong Air Cargo, My Freighter Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, Ninatrans, Fracht Group and others has enabled us to diversify our markets. The outlook for the rest of the year is equally positive,” said Laurent Jossart, CEO of Liege.

But last week the court heard that Liege was being “flooded with e-commerce”, prompting an attempt to resolve potential customs issues.

Alongside what has been a relaxed customs procedure, Liege is popular with cargo airlines for its flexibility, capacity and night operations. However, it remains relatively small: its June tonnage was 95,514 tonnes – up 21% – while Frankfurt today announced its June total of 178,324 tonnes, up 11.4%.

However, the pace of growth in Liège is leading the market: Xeneta said global demand rose by “only” 13% in June.

E-commerce is driving this growth – and airlines are keen to capitalise on it. Lufthansa Cargo said today it is adding flights to China.

CEO Aswin Bhat said: “The e-commerce segment has been growing steadily in the Chinese market and we continue to see strong demand, especially in Europe.”

Lufthansa has added Shenzhen Boa’an (SZX) to its cargo network, offering twice-weekly flights, and now flies to increasingly popular Zhengzhou (CGO) three times a week, both to be served by the new 777F when it arrives this summer. CGO is a hub for Cargolux and has also attracted the attention of Challenge Group, which hopes to expand operations there.

Lufthansa Cargo added that it was “well positioned” for the e-commerce market, working with its subsidiaries heyworld and CB Customs Broker and offering 19 Asian destinations with 47 weekly frequencies.

Meanwhile, Maersk Air Cargo also appears set to take delivery of the new 777F, which was spotted in Maersk colors last week flying test flights for Boeing. Maersk declined to comment.