Social media

International Forwarding Association Blog » Air freight in Europe » Maximizing Efficiency in Air Cargo with Nighttime Airport Operations

Maximizing Efficiency in Air Cargo with Nighttime Airport Operations

Nighttime operations at airports bring a number of advantages for transporting cargo. These include better accommodation for large aircraft, improved weather conditions for aircraft performance, enhanced security measures, and optimal conditions for shipping temperature-sensitive items.


Large Cargo Aircraft

At night, airports can better accommodate large aircraft due to decreased passenger flight schedules. With fewer passenger flights, airports can allocate longer time slots for large aircraft that carry substantial loads and require more time for loading and unloading. Additionally, they often transport oversized cargo and irregularly shaped items, which extends the process because such cargo does not fit standard conveyors or handling systems. This often requires specialized equipment like heavy-lift gear or high-capacity loaders to move these bulky items.

Furthermore, with reduced passenger traffic, longer runways are more readily available. This availability enables the operation of large cargo aircraft, which require more runway length for safe takeoff and landing.

With airports capable of accommodating larger aircraft at night, the number of flights needed to transport large amounts of cargo is reduced. This, in turn, lowers operational costs for ground forwarders.


Nighttime Temperatures

Cooler nighttime temperatures enhance aircraft performance. Cooler, denser air improves the lift of the wings and allows aircraft to achieve higher climbs that are more fuel-efficient. Cooler air also increases the efficiency of engine performance, which further supports better fuel economy. These fuel savings that benefit airlines at night are then passed on to ground forwarders as reduced operational costs.


Steadier Winds

Additionally, the reduction in wind variability at night minimizes the risk of crosswinds and turbulence upon takeoff and landing. This provides a safer and more stable environment for aircraft, especially large cargo planes that are more susceptible to adverse weather conditions due to their size and weight load. For forwarders, this stability means fewer delays and more predictable schedules that allow for smoother coordination of ground operations.


Enhanced Security

The reduced human traffic and quieter environment at night allow security personnel to concentrate better without the distractions typical of daytime hours. This heightened focus allows them to monitor for any suspicious activities and security breaches.

Furthermore, airports typically increase the number of security patrols at night to counter the increased risks associated with lower visibility. Nighttime also offers more opportunities for unauthorized activities because there is less natural surveillance from bustling crowds. Therefore, increasing patrols ensures that critical areas like cargo and restricted zones are continuously monitored.

For European logistics companies, this enhanced nighttime security means their shipments are safer, with a lower risk of theft and damage.


Shipping Temperature-Sensitive Items

Cooler nighttime temperatures are ideal for transporting temperature-sensitive items like pharmaceuticals and perishable goods, which require stable, cool conditions. Shipping these goods at night not only maintains their quality and effectiveness but also cuts down on the need for energy-consuming and costly artificial refrigeration systems.

Using nighttime for shipments also benefits forwarders by reducing both the likelihood of cargo damage and the costs associated with cooling systems.