(CNN) — Alaska’s Anchorage International Airport lacks the waterfalls and razzmatazz of Singapore Changi or the eight runways of Chicago O’Hare.
But this unassuming little airport — equidistant between New York and Tokyo — has recently had an surprising rise in prominence.
It’s now the busiest airport in the world… on some Saturdays, at the least.
“Saturday’s a busy day for cargo operations, which is our bread and butter, but it’s also the slowest day for passenger service,” explains airport supervisor Jim Szczesniak over video name.
“So for example, on Saturday, May 2, we in Anchorage had 744 flight operations, whereas Chicago had only 579 and Atlanta had only 529.”
Anchorage additionally briefly snatched the world’s busiest title on Saturday, April 25.
Top of the world
The coronavirus pandemic implies that passenger visitors is at present down by greater than 90%, in response to Angela Gittens, ACI World’s director common. “The demand is pretty much gone.”
One space that has been on the rise, nonetheless, is cargo visitors, which is why Anchorage Airport — in unusual occasions, the world’s fifth-busiest cargo airport — is on the ascendant.
“We’re seeing an increased demand for cargo capacity,” says Szczesniak. “And that’s primarily because a lot of the supplies for the fight against Covid in North America are produced in Asia.”
Anchorage is positioned to good geographical benefit, at what the airport says is 9.5 hours’ flying time from 90% of the industrialized world.
Its location, fairly actually at the high of the world, implies that planes “fly up and over the top [of the globe] to shorten the distance,” says Szczesniak.
“The advantage of Anchorage is airplanes can fly filled with cargo but only half-filled with fuel. They fly into Anchorage and then they re-fuel and then onto their destination.”
The little airport that might
“We’re using different areas of the airport to accommodate parking that we normally wouldn’t,” 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.
In order to stop the unfold of Covid-19, the plane crew passing by means of Anchorage “minimize their ability to interact with Alaskans,” explains Szczesniak. They use personal transport to and from resorts and keep away from mixing with floor crew.
Vacation vacation spot
“Post-coronavirus, we think Alaska is going to become quite a popular tourism destination,” says Szczesniak. “You know, they tell you to stay six feet away from people. In Alaska you can come here and have a fantastic vacation and not be within six miles of somebody.”
There are round 60 glaciers inside a 50-mile radius of the airport and this most gorgeously wild of US states is lined with mighty nationwide parks and preserves. There’s mountain climbing, there’s fishing, there’s white-water rafting and extra; it is superb for backwoods adventurers.
The airport is making ready for the return of passenger service by upgrading its cleansing program to Covid-19 battle-ready requirements, utilizing all hospital-grade disinfectants.
In the terminal, they’ve added sanitizing UV LED lights to the escalator handrails. Says Szczesniak, “As the handrail travels through the machinery, it’ll be blasted with UV light to kill any microbes, viruses or bacteria that happen to them.”
$97 billion in losses
At the time of our video name between London and Anchorage, there have been 90 planes in the air heading from the UK capital to the Alaskan airport, in response to real-time flight-tracking website Flightradar24.
“There are more airplanes in the sky right now to and from Anchorage than there are for both JFK and LaGuardia,” says Szczesniak.
The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, noticed 110.5 million passengers in 2019. But in the first quarter of 2020, the Atlanta airport logged 20.7 million passengers, down greater than 18% from the similar interval final yr.
The aviation business is going through a $97 billion discount in income in 2020 and restoration is prone to be a sluggish and painful course of.
The staff at Anchorage are pleased 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 can be mercifully quick.
CNN’s Marnie Hunter contributed to this report