Los Angeles International Airport, California-Air Freight Gateway

Los Angeles International Airport, California-Air Freight Gateway

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the nation's third busiest international air freight gateway by value of shipments in 2008. It was the 11th leading gateway when compared with all U.S. air, land, and sea freight gateways.

In 2008, about 10 percent of the value of all U.S. international air freight moved through LAX (table 1). More than $78 billion worth of merchandise trade passed through LAX in 2008, a decrease of 2 percent from $80 billion in 2007. Exports fell about 1 percent, and imports fell 3 percent (USDOC CB 2009b).1 By weight, LAX ranked fourth among all air gateways, handling 8 percent of U.S. international air freight (table 1).2 It handled more than 770,000 tons of international air cargo in 2008, up 8 percent from 2007 (table 2).

The top commodities exported through LAX are vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The leading imported commodity is apparel, followed by computer equipment. The majority of air cargo that arrives at LAX comes in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft.3

LAX is a major U.S. hub for trade with Pacific Rim countries. The major origin-destination countries for nonstop segments were Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan (table 3). The top cities for nonstop flight segments for air cargo were Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul (table 4). However, the major origin and destination markets for goods moving through LAX were South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.4

The value of international air freight moving through LAX ($78 billion) was less than a quarter of the value of international maritime freight moving through the regional seaports of Los Angeles and Long Beach combined ($336 billion). In total, the airport and two seaports accounted for $414 billion in international merchandise trade in 2008. By comparison, the New York area gateway ports—John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Port of New York and New Jersey—accounted for $353 billion in international trade in 2008. These large amounts of freight emphasize the importance of the two Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coast cities as leading U.S. gateways for their respective regional economies, as well as for the nation's economy.

A large number of domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers operate out of LAX. In 2008, the top air carriers for imports were China Airlines and Japan Airlines, and the top carrier for exports was Singapore Airlines (table 5).

1 The 2007 data used in this comparison are not presented in table 1. The data are available online in the gateways database at www.bts.gov.

2 Ranking of air gateways by weight is available in table 9 of this report's overview section.

3 This commodity information is from LAX website at www.lawa.org/welcome_lax.aspx?id=776 as of July 20, 2009.

4 This information is based on Form 41 International Market Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Office of Airline Information. Origin-destination airport-pair data by value are not available from the merchandise trade data. See box 2, page 15, for further discussion of the segment and market data.