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Panalpina has boosted its footprint in Mexico with the addition of a third destination in the country served by dedicated freighter aircraft.

Last month, the logistics operator started a weekly service to Querétaro, supplementing its all-cargo flights to Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Querétaro replaces the Mexican capital on one weekly rotation of its ‘Speedy Loop’, linking Huntsville with Mexican gateways. The flight, which utilises a B747-8 freighter wet-leased from Atlas Air, is routed from Luxembourg via Huntsville to Querétaro and on to Guadalajara, returning via Huntsville to Luxembourg.

Querétaro is situated in the heart of the Bajio region, which boasts significant manufacturing activity, including a large cluster of aerospace production. The logistics company said the new lane reflected its growth in the sector.

Meanwhile, automotive production is also strong in the area, boasting production facilities for BMW, Nissan and Mazda as well as a host of tier-one suppliers.

Mike Gamel, chairman and vice-president of sales and marketing of Mexpress, which operates a cross-border RFS service to many airports in the region as well as Mexico City and Guadalajara, said: “Querétaro has really been coming on strong.”

To date, most airfreight to and from the Bajio region has been moved through airports at Guadalajara or Mexico City, which adds one day in transit time, Mr Gamel said. His company, which has a licence to move cargo in bond across the border, has been providing shorter transit times via road from Los Angeles and Dallas than airfreight service into Mexico, he claims.

One reason for this has been the state of local infrastructure. Airports in the region, like San Luis Potosi, do not have docks for freight and Silao only recently erected a warehouse, Mr Gamel said.

It appears Querétaro has the wind it its sails: in April, the CEO of DHL Express Mexico, Antonio Arranz, told local media the integrator was looking to ramp up its capacity deployed at the airport. It is currently serving Querétaro with MD-80 and DC-9 freighters flown by a third party and is now discussing possible capacity upgrades with the operator.

Last year, DHL pushed more than 22,000 tonnes through the airport. According to Mr Arranz, its Querétaro flights have been 100% full and the integrator has been forced to supplement its lift on occasions with charters.

Panalpina has also been stretched with its Mexican lift. The company has operated 11 ad hoc charters to the country this year, and another 10 charters are already lined up for the near future.

“Airfreight capacity is still tight,” said Mr Gamel, adding that the rhetoric from the White House appears to have had no impact on auto manufacturing in Mexico. If anything, this activity has gone up, he said.

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