(CNN) — Alaska’s Anchorage Worldwide Airport lacks the waterfalls and razzmatazz of Singapore Changi or the eight runways of Chicago O’Hare.
However this unassuming little airport — equidistant between New York and Tokyo — has currently had an surprising rise in prominence.
It is now the busiest airport on this planet… on some Saturdays, at the least.
“Saturday’s a busy day for cargo operations, which is our bread and butter, nevertheless it’s additionally the slowest day for passenger service,” explains airport supervisor Jim Szczesniak over video name.
“So for instance, on Saturday, Could 2, we in Anchorage had 744 flight operations, whereas Chicago had solely 579 and Atlanta had solely 529.”
Anchorage additionally briefly snatched the world’s busiest title on Saturday, April 25.
Prime of the world
The coronavirus pandemic implies that passenger site visitors is at the moment down by greater than 90%, in keeping with Angela Gittens, ACI World’s director basic. “The demand is just about gone.”
One space that has been on the rise, nevertheless, is cargo site visitors, which is why Anchorage Airport — in odd occasions, the world’s fifth-busiest cargo airport — is on the ascendant.
“We’re seeing an elevated demand for cargo capability,” says Szczesniak. “And that is primarily as a result of quite a lot of the provides for the struggle in opposition to Covid in North America are produced in Asia.”
Anchorage is positioned to excellent geographical benefit, at what the airport says is 9.5 hours’ flying time from 90% of the industrialized world.
Its location, fairly actually on the high of the world, implies that planes “fly up and excessive [of the globe] to shorten the space,” says Szczesniak.
“The benefit of Anchorage is airplanes can fly crammed with cargo however solely half-filled with gas. They fly into Anchorage after which they re-fuel after which onto their vacation spot.”
The little airport that might
“We’re utilizing completely different areas of the airport to accommodate parking that we usually would not,” says Szczesniak.
The airport has just lately performed host to the heaviest plane ever constructed, the Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo aircraft, and likewise some titans of sport — the New England Patriots’ aircraft stopped right here as a result of it was flying provides between Boston and Asia.
As a way to stop the unfold of Covid-19, the plane crew passing via Anchorage “reduce their means to work together with Alaskans,” explains Szczesniak. They use non-public transport to and from accommodations and keep away from mixing with floor crew.
Trip vacation spot
“Put up-coronavirus, we expect Alaska goes to change into fairly a well-liked tourism vacation spot,” says Szczesniak. “You realize, they inform you to remain six toes away from individuals. In Alaska you may come right here and have a unbelievable trip and never be inside six miles of someone.”
There are round 60 glaciers inside a 50-mile radius of the airport and this most gorgeously wild of US states is roofed with mighty nationwide parks and preserves. There’s climbing, there’s fishing, there’s white-water rafting and extra; it is very best for backwoods adventurers.
The airport is getting ready for the return of passenger service by upgrading its cleansing program to Covid-19 battle-ready requirements, utilizing all hospital-grade disinfectants.
Within the terminal, they’ve added sanitizing UV LED lights to the escalator handrails. Says Szczesniak, “Because the handrail travels via the equipment, it will be blasted with UV mild to kill any microbes, viruses or micro organism that occur to them.”
$97 billion in losses
On the time of our video name between London and Anchorage, there have been 90 planes within the air heading from the UK capital to the Alaskan airport, in keeping with real-time flight-tracking web site Flightradar24.
“There are extra airplanes within the sky proper now to and from Anchorage than there are for each JFK and LaGuardia,” says Szczesniak.
The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Worldwide Airport, noticed 110.5 million passengers in 2019. However within the first quarter of 2020, the Atlanta airport logged 20.7 million passengers, down greater than 18% from the identical interval final 12 months.
The aviation business is dealing with a $97 billion discount in income in 2020 and restoration is more likely to be a sluggish and painful course of.
The group at Anchorage are happy with their efforts in facilitating the transport of medical provides throughout this time of world want — however they hope that their time as occasional record-holders will likely be mercifully quick.
CNN’s Marnie Hunter contributed to this report