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Runway Mobility and Reliability

Non-Cargo Aircraft Traffic

To document current mobility and reliability conditions at the Region’s airports, the following data on volumes or total number of aircraft being served and capacity or types of aircraft and air cargo being handled are documented.

The chart, Average Daily Aircraft Traffic at Non-Cargo Airports, provides a snapshot of current daily aircraft operations at the Region’s seven non-air cargo public airports. These numbers include only commuter passenger planes and flight training aircraft. In reviewing the 2021 daily aircraft figures, it is important to note that passenger flights are still recovering from the COVID pandemic.

A view through a window of several small white commuter planes parked at Lunken Airport.

Small Passenger Aircraft
Source: Lunken Airport. (2021).

Cargo Aircraft Traffic

Like all airports across the globe, CVG’s 2020 annual aircraft total is a decrease after multiple years of growth due to the COVID pandemic, stay-at-home mandates, and the grounding of air travel. However, over the past seven years, an examination of the type of aircraft served by CVG shows a significant transition from an airport handling a slight majority of Commuter and Air Taxi aircrafts (52 percent in 2013) to one handling an overwhelming majority of Air Carrier traffic (87 percent) in 2020.

Definitions of Aircraft Types

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Air Carrier

A commercial carrier utilizing aircraft as its means of transport; an airline, as for passengers or freight. Examples at CVG include Delta, United, American, and Southwest airlines. Air cargo transported on scheduled Air Carrier passenger flights is known as “belly cargo.”

Commuter & Air Taxi

A small commercial aircraft which makes short flights on demand.

General Aviation

The operation of civilian aircraft for purposes other than commercial passenger transport, including personal, business, and instructional flying.


Any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type in combat or non-combat.

Cargo on a conveyor connected to open cargo door of passenger plane

Belly Cargo on a Passenger Plane
Source: Canva. (2022).

Cargo on Passenger Flights

Air Carriers refer to aircraft that carry cargo and can be broken down into two subcategories. First, air cargo transported on scheduled Air Carrier passenger flights is known as “belly cargo” because small packages are carried in the belly of the aircraft below the passenger compartments. Examples of airlines carrying belly cargo to and from CVG include Delta, United, American, and Southwest.

Cargo on Non-Passenger Flights

The second subcategory of Air Carriers is aircraft that handles only cargo, no passengers. This includes Cargo Freighter Airlines that generally operate scheduled wide-body and/or containerized cargo aircraft from one major airport to another using Unit Load Devices or ULDs. ULDs can be pallets or containers that facilitate the safe and efficient transport of cargo by grouping shipments together, locking into position, and fitting the shape of the aircraft’s fuselage or body to make use of every inch of space. As of Fall 2021, CVG had over 115 cargo plane parking spots. Cargo Freighter Airlines operating at CVG include Atlas Air, Kalitta Air, Polar, and FedEx. Goods handled by Cargo Freight Airlines are referred to as Air Freight.

Also handling all-cargo loads are Integrated Express Carriers like DHL and Amazon, which operate with a very tight shipping window to their Midwest distribution hubs at CVG. They operate large fleets of scheduled aircraft, trucks, and couriers for door-to-door service. In terms of volume, Air Express has comprised the overwhelming majority of air cargo tonnage handled at CVG over the past several years.

Definitions of Air Cargo Types

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Air Express

Smaller parcel shipments from door-to-door, pick-up to delivery. Shipment cost is more expensive due to added services. On average, shipment travel times range from three to seven days from parcel pick-up to final delivery. The average American is more familiar with companies offering Air Express services like DHL and Amazon as we use them for our own personal use.

Air Freight

Air cargo transported by Cargo Freighter Airlines represent typical import/export containerized air shipments in large, windowless, non-passenger aircraft. Cost per item is lower due to larger, bulk shipment sizes. On average, shipment travel times are seven to 10 days from origin to destination.

Air Mail

Letters and small packages, especially those of the government postal system, that are transported by aircraft.

A yellow with red stripes DHL plane parked with a dark night sky in the background. Plane’s passenger and cargo doors are open with a stairway and large mechanical lift for loading/unloading cargo.

DHL Overnight Air Cargo Operations at CVG
Source: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). (2021).

Integrated Express Cargo

Typically, integrated express companies provide next-day and deferred time-definite delivery of documents and small packages ranging from two to 70 pounds. This short, time-sensitive delivery window is the business focus of the air cargo industry, and it demands the need for overnight air cargo operations. Every night, planes arrive at CVG between midnight and 2 a.m. Cargo is sorted and reloaded for departures at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. The reliability of these overnight operations is essential to CVG’s continued success to the air cargo industry and its service-based businesses that rely on meeting every customer’s delivery deadline.

Landed Weight Shift to Cargo

In 2013, the breakdown in total CVG landed weight was 51 percent passenger and 49 percent cargo. By 2019, the tables had turned as CVG experienced a 10-plus percentage point change in landed weight to 41 percent passenger and 59 percent cargo. This data highlights the strong growth in air cargo that CVG has experienced over the past decade. When examining 2020 data, one must consider COVID 19 to account for the dramatic drop in passenger landed weight. However, we have chosen to show 2021 data due to the continued growth and importance air cargo played at CVG during this unprecedented global catastrophe. 2020 and 2021 landed weight values also reflect the growing dependence people had on e-commerce for delivery of necessary household goods during the pandemic. Some forecasters think that COVID has escalated e-commerce as a percent of all retail by five to 10 years. This means that e-commerce levels that were projected for 2025 to 2030 are happening today. E-commerce deliveries are of course only a portion of the commodities being moved by air.

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