Anchorage international airport jumps to third in world for air cargo

The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport continued to move up the global ladder in cargo shipments last year, jumping to third place and switching spots with Shanghai Pudong Airport in China, the airport announced earlier this month.

Just over 3.45 million metric tons transited the airport, slightly less than the year before.

But the annual drop was smaller than the decline at many of the airport’s peers, as global air cargo traffic fell last year following a historic period the year before when problems in maritime shipping boosted air freight.

COVID-19 shutdowns in China last year contributed to a sharp decline in cargo shipments at the Shanghai airport, helping push Anchorage up a notch, said Craig Campbell, airport manager.

The Anchorage airport also had additional activity from some cargo carriers last year, helping stabilize the airport’s numbers, Campbell said.

MasAir, a cargo airline in Mexico City, increased its presence in Alaska last year, moving more freight between Asia and Mexico, Campbell said. Northern Air Cargo and Atlas Air also ramped up their activity at the airport.

[Past coverage: Why Anchorage’s international airport is such a big cargo destination — and how it could get even bigger]


Anchorage’s airport has steadily ascended the ranks of the world’s cargo airports.

It was sixth for cargo pounds transited in 2019. But in 2020, the pandemic boosted spending in the U.S. for goods from Asian markets. That helped bring more air cargo to the airport, lifting it into fourth place as jets stopped to refuel on trips between Asia and the Lower 48.

Campbell said the Anchorage airport is perfectly perched as a refueling stop between the continents, allowing jets to limit the fuel they carry and maximize their precious cargo haul.

Shanghai could regain its third-place standing this year, as operations in China get back on track after last year’s pandemic shutdowns, Campbell said.

But with another cargo carrier, China Postal Airlines, expected to move cargo through Anchorage later this year, shipments at the airport are poised to increase, Campbell said.

“We do expect growth in 2023,” he said.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or