Jam-packed ORD Forcing Logistics Companies To Get Creative in Chicago

While 2020 marked a very interesting year for air freight, one thing that didn’t slow down that year was cargo volume by weight through O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Volume grew through the airport by 14.8% in 2020 to more than 2 million metric tons and freight flights increased by 25% to over 30,000 according to Chicago’s Department of Aviation. 

A major reason is that international imports carried on widebody jets jumped 22%, more than any other major gateway in the U.S., including Memphis, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky - Fedex and UPS central hubs. 

While a massive flow of cargo into O’Hare is nothing new for ground handlers, it’s chaotic on the ground, warehousing companies are short staffed, and freight can now take up to a week to be sorted and then delivered for local deliveries. 

The cargo volume is so overwhelming that some ground handlers, including those for China Eastern and China Cargo Airlines, are renting warehouse space in neighboring jurisdictions outside the airport because they can’t handle it all in their existing facilities. In some instances, warehouse operators are subcontracting to competitors.

But what this all means is that logistic companies are looking for more creative ways to move freight into the Chicagoland area. 

Both DB Schenker and Senator International have relocated some of their airfreight operations to Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD). Both logistics companies have rented warehouse space that is currently under construction and when the construction is finished, Schenker will move into its own 50,000 sqft warehouse. 

Aside from providing additional warehousing for logistics companies, Rockford also provides a cost advantage as a result of its speed and efficiency processing cargo. O’Hare has high landing fees and the fuel consumption taxiing to the runway can be anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half during rush hour. The amount of fuel that simply burns and is wasted while the jet is taxiing is expensive.

The efficiency and customer service by the handling agent is so fluid that some freight is getting into DB Schenker's warehouse in Chicago faster through RFD than ORD.