East Midlands Airport – The UK’s Busiest Non-London Cargo Hub

Located about 38 miles (61 km) from the center of Birmingham in the UK, the East Midlands Airport is the UK’s busiest non-London cargo hub. Simultaneously, the relatively small airport has had its passenger number plummet by 99%, comparing March 2021 to the same month in 2019.

East Midlands Airport – The UK’s Busiest Non-London Cargo Hub
An Antonov Airlines An-124-100, registration UR-82029, photographed on its final approach at East Midlands Airport, Derby, UK, on 26 July 2020. Photo: Getty Images

“The airport is one of the UK’s most important gateways for goods. It’s a regional and national port of entry and exit which enables businesses to quickly get goods to customers or suppliers – whether they’re the likes of Rolls Royce moving aero engines, or small pharmaceutical businesses getting PPE equipment into hospitals.” – East Midlands Airport, via its official website.

March 2021 figures

East Midlands Airport recently published its numbers for activity ending March 31st, 2021. For the month, the airport handled 40,908 tonnes of cargo: A year-on-year change of +29.4%.

This result makes it the busiest UK airport for cargo outside of London, with Heathrow posting 122,474 tonnes of cargo handled in March. The main London hub also reported a year-on-year increase- which in this case was 21.4%.

East Midlands Airport – The UK’s Busiest Non-London Cargo Hub
East Midlands Airport saw a year-on-year increase of over 29% in terms of cargo handled. The airport is home to leading air freight operators, such as DHL, TNT, and UPS, and is a major air hub for the Royal Mail. Photo: Getty Images

Indeed, the airport had played a critical role in the rapid movement of PPE to frontline healthcare providers in the early days of the pandemic. Another reason for the jump in cargo is due to the rise in demand for dedicated air cargo flights, due to a lack of belly-hold capacity on long-haul passenger routes.

“[This] has meant we have broken a number of records recently. December was our heaviest ever month, which saw an increase in volume of goods rise by 43% compared with December the previous year,” the airport states.

In 2020 an additional 50,000 tonnes of goods passed through the airport, an increase of 13% from 2019.

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Devastating passenger numbers

Unfortunately, the airport has been heavily hit on the passenger operations side. Stoke-on-Trent Live reported that the airport saw just 71 passengers in March 2021 – a 99% drop from the 256,000 passengers it handled in March 2019.

The airport, located outside of Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester, has been a busy hub for airlines like Jet2, Ryanair, and Tui -shuttling Brits to sunny vacation destinations further south. The area is rich in manufacturing and engineering and has a population of eight million within a one-hour drive time. Altogether, over 38.3 million people live within a two-hour drive from the airport.

East Midlands Airport – The UK’s Busiest Non-London Cargo Hub
East Midlands Airport handles less than 100 passengers for the month of March.  Photo: Getty Images

In terms of reviving passenger activity, its managing firm, Manchester Airports Group, is calling for greater cooperation between governments to track new COVID-19 variants, instead of relying on PCR tests. It also demanded a new category be created for restriction-free travel as a way to aid recovery.

Have you traveled through East Midlands Airport in the past year or two? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.