Georgia DOT Study Shows $30 Billion in Commodities Arrive and Depart Georgia by Air Each Year

Staff Report

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

The Georgia Department of Transportation released its Statewide Air Cargo Study that provides a comprehensive review of the air cargo industry in Georgia. The study was conducted from July 2021 to September 2022 and was designed to identify current and forecasted air cargo activity to determine if new facilities or improvements to existing facilities are needed, and to estimate costs associated with the identified improvement needs.

“Transporting goods by air is typically associated with the movement of high value, light weight and perishable products,” said Clement Solomon, PhD, Georgia DOT’s director of Intermodal. "Air cargo is critical to Georgia’s automotive industry, pharmaceutical companies, medical suppliers and more. We saw a significant increase in e-commerce demand fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted the importance of air cargo for residents and businesses in Georgia even further. Demand is there and this study is helping us determine the next steps to adequately support the growing need.”  

This study identified 878 air cargo demand generators throughout the state. Air cargo demand generators are most often found in larger urban areas and tend to follow the state’s interstate highway corridors. Seven airports in Georgia have scheduled air cargo service ranging from international cargo airports like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to smaller airports that support integrated express carriers such as DHL, FedEx Express and Georgia-based UPS, and 58 airports in the state have varying levels of air cargo activity supported by ad hoc or on-demand air cargo carriers.  

The study shows $30 billion in commodities arrive and depart Georgia by air each year. Domestically, goods with a total annual value of almost $3 billion are transported by air to and from Georgia. Internationally, the value is almost $27 billion. Top commodities by value include electronics, motor vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals, machinery and transport equipment. Air cargo tonnage for airports with scheduled service in Albany, Columbus, Savannah, Stateseboro and Swainsboro is forecasted to grow at an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent, nearly doubling the annual cargo tonnage from 34,810 metric tons in 2019 to 62,170 metric tons in 2040.

Based on growing demand, cargo carriers are expanding their aircraft fleets, acquiring more and larger jets and various types of smaller feeder aircraft. Integrated express carriers have plans to acquire smaller electric aircraft to expand their route networks, and cargo carriers are researching how they can best use various types of drones to improve their efficiency.  

Not including the air cargo investment needs for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the study identified $103.7 million in air cargo investments primarily for the airports serving Albany and Savannah. This investment would support just over 1,400 jobs while projects are being implemented and would produce a total economic return, from just the construction impacts, estimated at $203 million.  

Concurrently with the study identified improvements, an additional air cargo complex is planned at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the 13th busiest air cargo airport in the U.S. As air cargo demand grows and highway congestion increases in urban areas, it is possible that air cargo carriers will expand their scheduled operations in Georgia. 

An Air Cargo Working Group comprised of air cargo industry experts and stakeholders will continue to monitor air cargo activity and trends, helping to ensure that Georgia airports are positioned to not only meet current and forecasted demand but also to monitor the growing and evolving air cargo industry.
For additional information including the full technical report and Fact Sheet, please visit Georgia DOT's aviation planning webpage.