The New Surge in Air Cargo: Opportunities for Chicago and the Air Freight Industry

The International Air Cargo Association of Chicago (IACAC) and our members are at the forefront of a significant shift in the logistics landscape, driven by a robust surge in the air cargo market. A recent FreightWaves article illuminates this trend, highlighting a double-digit growth in air freight volume in the early months of 2024. This growth trajectory, spurred by increased e-commerce activity, manufacturing shifts, and geopolitical disruptions, positions Chicago as a pivotal hub for air freight, offering a myriad of opportunities for local and international logistics players.

The air cargo market's impressive start in 2024 is a beacon of optimism, especially for a city like Chicago, with its strategic position and extensive logistics infrastructure. The city stands to benefit significantly from the uptick in air freight volume, which is largely attributed to the robust e-commerce exports from Asia, particularly South China and Hong Kong. As international consumers lean heavily on quick delivery services for their online purchases, Chicago's air cargo capabilities are crucial in meeting these demands efficiently.

Red Sea Blues

Moreover, the geopolitical tension around the Red Sea has rerouted ocean freight, compelling shippers to pivot towards air cargo as a reliable alternative. This shift not only underscores the agility and flexibility of air freight solutions but also highlights Chicago's role in maintaining the continuity of global trade flows amidst disruptions.

For members of the IACAC and the broader air cargo industry, this wave of growth presents a strategic opportunity to reinforce Chicago's position as a key logistics hub. The city's advanced air cargo facilities and connectivity offer a competitive edge in handling increased volumes, ensuring that goods move seamlessly across global supply chains. Furthermore, this surge is a clarion call for innovation in air freight services, urging stakeholders to invest in technology and infrastructure that enhance operational efficiency and sustainability.

How Sustainable is the Growth?

However, the sustainability of this growth wave is a subject of discussion. While the current upturn offers a myriad of opportunities, it also invites scrutiny regarding its longevity. Stakeholders must consider factors such as global economic stability, trade policies, and the eventual normalization of shipping routes. Hence, it's imperative for the Chicago air freight community to leverage this growth period to build resilience, adapt to changing market dynamics, and foster long-term strategic partnerships.

The recent upswing in air cargo volume heralds a period of significant opportunity for Chicago and the global air freight industry. As stakeholders navigate this evolving landscape, the focus should be on harnessing this momentum to bolster Chicago's status as an indispensable node in the international logistics network, driving innovation, efficiency, and sustainability in air freight services. 

Embracing a Greener Horizon in Air Cargo Operations

Embracing Sustainability: A Greener Horizon in Air Cargo Operations

As we edge closer to St. Patrick’s Day, a time synonymous with the color green, it's an opportune moment for members of the International Air Cargo Association of Chicago (IACAC) to reflect on the broader, more crucial aspect of 'being green' in our industry. The air cargo sector, pivotal in driving global trade, is on a steadfast journey toward embracing sustainability. This green transition not only signifies our commitment to the environment but also heralds a new era of eco-conscious practices that promise to redefine our industry standards.

The Imperative of Sustainability in Air Cargo

The air cargo industry stands at a crossroads, where the path to sustainability is not just a choice but a necessity. As global awareness and regulations around environmental conservation tighten, companies are increasingly adopting sustainable practices. These measures not only help mitigate the environmental impact of air cargo operations but also ensure compliance with evolving global standards, thereby securing a competitive edge in the international logistics landscape.

Eco-Friendly Practices Take Flight

Many IACAC members are already leading by example, integrating eco-friendly practices into their operations. From optimizing flight routes to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions to investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, the efforts are multifaceted. Additionally, the adoption of electric ground handling equipment and the implementation of paperless documentation processes are tangible steps being taken to minimize the environmental footprint of air cargo activities.

Innovation at the Heart of Green Technologies

The future of air cargo is inextricably linked with the advancement of green technologies. Innovations such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) are making inroads, offering a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional jet fuel. Moreover, the exploration of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft presents a groundbreaking opportunity to revolutionize air cargo transportation, steering it towards a more sustainable future.

The Way Forward: A Collective Endeavor

The journey towards a green future in air cargo is a collective endeavor, requiring the participation of all stakeholders. By sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices, IACAC members can lead the charge in transforming the industry. The association's role in fostering collaboration and innovation among its members is crucial in this regard, paving the way for a sustainable, eco-friendly air cargo industry.

As we celebrate the greenery of Spring in the coming weeks, let's draw inspiration from its vibrant green hue to bolster our commitment to sustainability. The path to a greener future is both a challenge and an opportunity, one that the air cargo industry, guided by the collective efforts of the IACAC community, is well-equipped to embrace.

Evolution of Air Cargo: Past, Present, and Future – Chicago’s Pivotal Role

Welcome to the latest edition of the International Air Cargo Association of Chicago's (IACAC) monthly blog. In this feature, we invite you on a fascinating journey through the evolving world of air cargo. Our exploration takes us from the historic roots of this dynamic industry to its current bustling state and onto the exciting possibilities of the future. At the heart of this story is Chicago - not just a city but a pivotal force in the air cargo sector. Join us as we uncover how this industry began, where it stands today, and the promising horizons we're heading towards, with our beloved Windy City playing a crucial role at every step.

The Past - A Journey Through History

The story of air cargo began more than a century ago, with the first recorded air freight shipment in 1910. Since then, the industry has witnessed remarkable transformations, evolving from mail transport to accommodating massive cargo shipments, pivotal in global supply chains.

Chicago, with its strategic location, emerged as a key player in this evolution. The establishment of Chicago Municipal Airport, later renamed Chicago Midway Airport, in 1927, and the subsequent development of O'Hare International Airport, played crucial roles in cementing the city's status as an air cargo hub. These airports facilitated not just passenger movement but also the flow of goods, contributing significantly to the region’s economic growth.

The Present - Current Trends in Air Cargo

Today, the air cargo industry is a complex, dynamic system, integral to global trade. The latest statistics reveal a robust growth trajectory, accelerated by trends like e-commerce and technological advancements. In Chicago, O'Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports for cargo in the United States, handling a significant percentage of the country’s air freight.

The rise of e-commerce has been a game-changer, leading to increased demand for faster delivery times. In response, air cargo operators in Chicago have adapted with innovative solutions, enhancing efficiency and capacity. Technological advancements in tracking, logistics, and sustainability initiatives have also redefined the operational landscape.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges, underscoring the sector's resilience and adaptability. Amidst global lockdowns, air cargo played a crucial role in transporting essential goods and medical supplies, with Chicago serving as a vital link in this global effort.

The Future - Predictions and Projections

Looking ahead, the future of air cargo is poised at the brink of revolutionary changes. Technological innovations, including drone delivery and AI-driven logistics, are set to redefine the industry. Predictions suggest a surge in demand for air freight services, propelled by evolving global trade patterns and economic growth.

For Chicago, this future brings both challenges and opportunities. The city is expected to continue as a significant global air cargo hub, necessitating investments in infrastructure and technology to keep pace with growing demands. However, challenges such as environmental concerns and the need for sustainable practices also loom large.

The journey of the air cargo industry is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of efficiency and connectivity. Chicago, with its rich history and strategic significance, has been and will continue to be a key player in this narrative. As we embrace the future, it is crucial for IACAC members and stakeholders to stay abreast of these changes, adapting and innovating to maintain our pivotal role in this ever-evolving industry.

We encourage our members to actively participate in IACAC events and forums, fostering a community of informed, engaged professionals ready to navigate the future of air cargo. Not a member? Learn more here and become part of the conversation today.

The IACAC Announces 2021 Scholarship Winners!

The IACAC is thrilled to announce our 2021 scholarship winners!

Every year the IACAC works hard to raise money for exceptional college students and this year we were fortunate enough to give out awards to four students for $1500 each. The scholarship fund is created and maintained by raising money at our annual golf outing, networking events, and donations from members like you!

Congratulations to Anthony Divenere, Mia Crotty, Lilly Sato, and Cathlene Tomas!

The award presentation will take place at our annual holiday luncheon and raffle on Tuesday, December 14th.

Register now to attend and support our future leaders as we celebrate their success and feed next year's pot with raffle giveaways!

On behalf of the IACAC Scholarship Committee, we congratulate the winners and wish them great success!

President’s Letter: September, 2021

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks that changed the world in ways too numerous to count. The most important thing to keep front and center in our minds are those who lost their live at home and abroad. Whether in the attacks, the subsequent war effort which drew to a close last month in Afghanistan, from injuries or exposure during the cleanup or the untold number civilians caught in harm's way, the world has paid a price too great to be tallied.

Seen through the prism of air cargo, the changes brought on with the creation of the TSA and the security programs that are in place today evolved over that time. I had a front-row seat for it, representing the NCBFAA as their air freight committee chairman and participating in seemingly monthly stakeholder meetings at the new agency, mostly with the AfA's Brandon Fried by my side representing the interests of air freight forwarders.

The continued need for vigilance through the air cargo supply chain has not waned during this time - it has only evolved. Technology has evolved, canines have been added and the worries about cargo have expanded beyond bombs in boxes to unsafe batteries and potential cyber-intrusions. All of which is to say that the need for the air freight forwarder and the importance of our role in the supply chain is not just focused on keeping air freight moving through congested supply chains, but continuing to keep the flying public safe as they return to the skies for personal and commercial travel.

Golf Outing Thank You's:

We held the annual golf outing last month and have posted up an assortment of pictures here on our website. This event doesn't happen without a lot of help from a lot of people and groups. Thank you to:

  • Chuck Menini
  • Brian Bartolotta
  • Ben Pecoraro
  • Christine Aguirre
  • Laura Candella
  • Therese O'Sullivan
  • Jim Slawnikowski
  • The staff of Bridges of Poplar Creek Golf Course

Without all your efforts, the day would not have been possible. Thank you as well to our sponsors:

We're really looking forward our next social event at Church Street Brewing Company as we return to our traditional Oktoberfest party on Thursday, September 23rd. Sponsorship opportunities are available - contact me to learn more.

President’s Letter: June 2021

The IACAC is excitedly looking ahead to the summer and the rest of the year and wanted to let everyone know what we're looking ahead to.

Next Tuesday's IN PERSON MEETING - Charters

We're not able to serve food just yet - but attendees will get a $10 gift card to a local restaurant to get their own meal. 

Charters are continuing to hold sway with forwarders and airlines even as passenger flight schedules are returning throughout the summer. Forwarders - and airlines - each have a role to play in the sourcing and scheduling of these complex but important flights. Join us Tuesday to hear a representative from United Airlines as well as someone from our local forwarding community talk about charters and what's involved in their planning and execution. Register here. 

Seeking sponsors for Chicago Dogs game in July

We're planning our first social gathering in July at the Chicago Dogs. Your sponsorship will underwrite the cost of admission as well as food and beverage tickets for our attendees. We're still finalizing the event, but sponsorships are available for $100, $250, $500 and $1000. Sponsors will get the attendee list and also be able to provide literature or giveaways - we cannot have signage inside the park. If you're interested in sponsoring, send an email to and we'll work out the details.

Golf Outing August 10th!

Don't miss it - we're back and spots are - honestly - going quickly. We've got capacity for up to 144 golfers and are planning our luncheon afterwards.

Sponsorships are available for the golf outing as well including breakfast, on-course opportunities to sit and network with golfers, lunch at the halfway house and more. PLUS we'll have our traditional post-golf luncheon and raffle to benefit our Scholarship Fund.

To register, check out the event page and get signed up! We'll be making contact with 2019 sponsors who get right of first refusal here in 2021 for the holes they were on previously.


Yep - we'll be back at Church Street. Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 16th for our annual event. Beer, music, food truck - fun. We're looking forward to getting back together with everyone.

President’s Letter: October, 2020

First and foremost, I hope that this message finds everyone healthy and that their family and friends are feeling the same.

Second, everyone in this industry who is going to work every day and keeps commerce flowing and is frantically scaling up and getting ready for the inevitable onslaught of vaccine delivery and distribution - thank you. On behalf of a grateful nation - and really, grateful world - the people doing this for a living are doing so in plain sight but without the slightest awareness of the public how much they should be appreciated.

Here at the I.A.C.A.C., our board has been meeting regularly, but we've adopted a month-by-month approach to events on our calendar because, quite honestly, we're at the mercy of public health authorities and what just makes good safe sense for our members.

As a board, we carry officers & directors liability insurance, sure, but it doesn't mean we feel like testing the limits of that policy were someone to get sick - or worse - at an event we were holding.

For fans of the show Futurama, it's essentially putting Fry on ice for a few thousand years and coming back out, except in our case it's most likely going to be more like a year and a half (read: early next summer) before it is sufficiently safe to bring large numbers of people together.

Because of the fluidity, we want to bring you up to speed on the rest of 2020 and what we're looking for to 2021.

The scholarship needs YOUR help.

The IACAC Scholarship Fund is filled every year by our golf outing and holiday party. These two events, the money we raise from sponsorships and the generosity of our attendees in buying raffle tickets bring in thousands of dollars which we then award in scholarships.

This year, with no golf outing, we're asking people who usually attend and bring items to donate to just make a cash contribution instead.

The association has set up an entirely separate bank account and 501(c)(3) corporation to receive and disburse the donations as scholarships. If you would normally spend $50 or $100 (or more!) on raffle items, we ask that you consider donating us that amount in cash instead. We can accept payment via check or credit card and you'll be sent a copy of our IRS letter you can use to declare it a charitable donation on your corporate or personal income tax (speak to your tax preparer to confirm this for your individual filing needs).

IACAC Holiday Party: Stay tuned

We might as well let it out that this year, we were really excited to be changing venues to Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Arlington Heights and had planned our Holiday Luncheon for Tuesday, December 8th. Conversations last week with the restaurant's event team highlighted that the current limit in the state of Illinois is 50 people - and we'd booked a room with 100 person capacity.

Beside the fact we'd be upside down on the event, we also don't know what the current level of openness will be based on COVID infection rates at the time. We're leaning to what people in the events sector are calling a "lift and shift" and moving it wholesale (with our deposit) into 2021. Stay tuned for communications on that.

Notional 2021 calendar

Pending the resumption of other in-person events which might conflict for our members (like CNS or other major trade shows), we have tentative planned the following schedule.

  • January 12th - Educational event or webinar
  • February 9th - Educational event or webinar
  • March 9th - Educational event or webinar
  • April 13th - Educational event or webinar
  • May 11th - Educational event or webinar
  • June 8th - Educational event or webinar
  • July 13th - Educational event or webinar
  • September 14th - Educational event or webinar
  • October 12th - Educational event or webinar
  • November 9th - Elections

We're extremely grateful of the support of our sponsors and members through 2020 and are looking forward to finding ways to deliver more member value and greater opportunities for our sponsors moving through the rest of this year and into 2021.

President’s Letter: April, 2020

There are few words to really capture what is happening in the world at the moment. It's more a never-ending series of days that seeming run together into "day-that-ends-in-y"day, because time is passing far from linearly.

I've said half-jokingly that given what air cargo has gone through in 2020, first in China and then moving into Europe and finally here in America, I feel as if I'm aging at the same rate of speed as my dogs. 7 of their years to one of mine is about where we're at right now.

Remember when the biggest concern was low-sulfur fuel? I mean, I'm old enough to remember the signing of a Phase 1 agreement with China.

But that's not where we're at now.

The past month has seen a 97% year-on-year drop in passenger air travel, millions of people out of work shelter-in-place orders and the global economy vaulting off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. Our industry is certainly not immune as layoffs have gripped logistics companies as they and their customers try best to forecast when and how we come back and what it looks like when we do.

The IACAC is here for our members just like we have for the past sixty-plus years.

We know this isn't an easy time, but as we all ride through this together, I can't help but think that as we work to be valuable to our customers, to maintain our networks and find ways to come together by remaining apart, we will have a refreshed appreciation as we take those first tentative steps back to coming back into offices after scanning our closets for "work" clothes.

Me personally? I've become my grandfather, wearing the same shoes around the house every damn day. I miss footwear.

While we've had to make changes in our early 2020 programming, rest assured that we're still looking forward to a number of exciting events as we move into the rest of the year, including our annual golf outing and a our holiday party - which we are excited to announce will be moving to Coopers Hawk Restaurant & Winery in Arlington Heights.

So, stay tuned, stay safe and keep #flatteningthatcurve. The doubling statistics continue to grow longer in Illinois, a sign that things are improving. But like an athlete that tries to rush back to the game too soon after rehabbing an injury, we need to carefully evaluate how we begin again, but only with proper testing, tracing and identification.

Share your stories with us.

If your company is out there doing amazing things to help through this pandemic, we'd love to know about it and tag and amplify it. In case you didn't know where to find us on social:





President’s Letter: November, 2018

As I teased in The Pallet, November's a big month for voting. On the first Tuesday of the month, we vote for state and federal candidates. On the second Tuesday of the month, we vote for board positions for the IACAC. It is humbling to see new faces running for the board - it tells us that the energy the group is generating makes people want to be part of it and advance us even further. We are fortunate to have guidance, advice and support from many past presidents and board members - and what those people have to say and offer is extremely valuable and informs us as we debate and consider new opportunities for our members.

The annual election luncheon will be held Tuesday, November 13th, at the Department of Aviation. We encourage all our members to attend not just to network, but to meet our candidates, all of whom will be speaking and presenting themselves at the event. If you can't make the event in person but are a member in good standing of the IACAC, you can vote for the candidates by absentee ballot.

All you need to register for the luncheon or download and submit your ballot can be found right here.

December Holiday Luncheon

Mark your calendars for Tuesday - December 11th - a little over a month from now - to join us for our annual Holiday Luncheon at Belvedere Events & Banquets in Elk Grove Village. As always, we encourage everyone to bring an unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots collection that IACAC Board Member (and Marine) Maureen Schmitt arranges. Please also bring items that we can raffle off to raise money for our Scholarship Fund. Tickets are a very affordable $35 for members and non-members alike and we encourage everyone to join us and participate. Registration is open for the luncheon at this link.

IACAC Board On The Road - TIACA and WESCCON

Chuck Menini and I were both in Toronto for TIACA's Air Cargo Forum 2018 - it was extremely informative and gave us a few great ideas for topics to have for our upcoming luncheons, including UAV's and explosive-sniffing dogs. Along with this were very interesting sessions, some of which are available on TIACA's Periscope page that were live-streamed or by going back through TIACA's Twitter feed from those few days. 

If you're interested in hearing what Chuck and I had to say, why not check out this video from the IACAC Facebook page? 

I was also fortunate enough to score an interview with TIACA's Secretary General Vladimir Zubkov. That video is also on the IACAC Facebook page - but go ahead and use this direct link.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Brian Bartolotta was exhibiting at WESCCON and the word everybody was buzzing about was tariffs and what it has meant for importers as well as freight forwarders.

Join us (or join us again) in 2019

We are very excited to be kicking off membership renewals for 2019. We have plenty of great things planned for 2019 including members-only events, discounts and service offerings from vendors who want your business. We're extremely affordable at only $130 for a corporate membership and $50 for an individual membership. Don't wait - renew today.