The Airport Choices in the Air Cargo Sector: a Discrete Choice Analysis of Freighter Operations
F Kupfer, P Goos, R Kessels, E Van de Voorde, A Verhetsel, University of Antwerp, BE
This paper deals with the question of how freighter operators in Europe chose their airport. A literature study concerning the airport choice factors as well as a discrete choice analysis with selected airport choice factors is carried out.
In air transport research, much time has already been devoted to the study of airport and passenger operations. However, much less research has been carried out concerning air cargo, although it is becoming increasingly profitable for both airlines and airports. As new (regional) cargo airports develop and the competition between airports for cargo becomes fiercer, this contribution raises the question how freighter operators in Europe choose their airport. The main focus is on the factors that influence the airport choice and on the trade-offs that are made by the airlines. First, we performed a literature study concerning the important airport choice factors. The literature study revealed six categories of factors that are likely to influence the choice of an airport: restrictions, time factors, cost factors, market factors, strategic factors and perception of airport quality. After establishing these factors a discrete choice analysis is carried out, with six of the airport choice factors as attributes: airport charges, potential revenue, night time restrictions, presence of forwarders, presence of passenger airlines and experience with cargo. It was decided to work with a questionnaire with 17 general questions concerning airport choice and 20 discrete choice questions, showing the respondent two hypothetical airports to choose from. For the second part consisting of the discrete choice questions, a Bayesian D-optimal choice design was calculated, taking into account prior information about the attributes as well as bearing in mind that the potential revenue could be a dominant attribute. For this reason, ten of the twenty discrete choice questions were calculated taking into account all six selected attributes, whereas the other ten were calculated ignoring the potential revenue attribute to obtain more reliable information about the remaining attributes. To make the choice between the two hypothetical airports easier for the respondents, only four attributes were shown in each discrete choice question.
With the questionnaires, around twenty interviews are carried out. The respondents are decision makers of airlines which are using freighters for cargo operations. Finally, a multinomial logit model is estimated for the whole population of decision makers. It is expected that the results confirm that the potential revenue is a dominant factor in the airport choice of cargo airlines. The importance of the remaining five factors might depend on the legal status of the airline. An all-cargo airline for example can find the presence of passenger airlines less important than a cargo subsidiary or even a cargo division of a passenger airline. Furthermore, the willingness to pay is calculated where possible for some factors.
The results of this paper will help to better comprehend how freighter operators choose their airports and which factors are most important for airport competition. The results will help airports and governments to make better strategic decisions when attempting to attract air cargo carriers. A next step in the research could be to compare the results of the study with the reality by conducting case studies and analyzing the competitive position of a number of European airports.
Association for European Transport