The geography of air freight: Connections to U.S. metropolitan economies

Khaula A. Alkaabi, Keith G. Debbage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the rapid growth of air freight shipments, much of the existing literature on the geography of air transportation has paid more attention to passenger travel than air freight. The purpose of this paper is to elevate our understanding of air freight by determining which specific variables most influence and shape the geographic distribution of air freight by metropolitan area using stepwise regression analysis. The empirical results suggest a regression model of five independent variables was the most parsimonious solution where the final model accounted for 71.1% of the variation in air freight shipments by metropolitan area (MA). The most important predictor was the traffic shadow effect, where less populated MAs under the traffic shadow of larger MAs tended to generate lower levels of freight. The model also suggested that other key predictors included the employment market share in transportation-shipping-logistics industries, per capita personal income, the number of medical diagnostic and supplier establishments, and above average wages in high technology. Overall, metropolitan markets with diverse and efficient ground support systems, freight forwarders and other transportation services, a more affluent population, an intense agglomeration of medical laboratories and related suppliers, and a well paid skilled workforce engaged in computer systems design and electronic product manufacturing are more likely to ship freight by air.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1517-1529
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Air freight
  • Hubs
  • Metropolitan economies
  • Per capita personal income
  • Traffic shadow effect
  • Transportation-shipping-logistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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