Halifax Stanfield Air Cargo – Getting Goods off the ground and into Markets

There has not been a lot of good news for the aviation industry over the past two years as air travel had all but stopped during the pandemic.  We take a look at the one bright spot for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and aviation sector as a whole, which has been the growth in air cargo activity for most major carrier in 2021, which continues to show solid increases in year over years volumes that should soon surpass the record volumes seen in 2019 as the industry continues to recover and see the return of commercial and leisure travel flights.


While the past two years have created significant uncertainty for the aviation sector, air cargo activity increased at Halifax Stanfield in 2021 in comparison to 2020, and recovery is expected to continue as exports remain strong, new carriers enter the market, and the new Halifax Stanfield Air Cargo Logistics Park begins operation with a constant stream of high-frequency cargo service out of Halifax allowing for a major Canadian expansion of Air Canada’s cargo service and major boost for Nova Scotia’s export economy as Air Canada will run six cargo flights a week out of Halifax Stanfield  heading to European destinations giving Nova Scotian businesses offering like products like blueberries, pharmaceuticals, aerospace parts, seafood and many more the ability to reach customer all over the globe with their products 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly underscored the importance of air cargo to global supply chains,” said Joyce Carter, President & CEO, Halifax International Airport Authority. “Air cargo has supported our collective fight against COVID-19 through deliveries of PPE and vaccines, maintained local jobs through exports of Nova Scotia products, and aided our communities through efficient transport of e-commerce orders. In every instance, air cargo has played a critical role in moving important goods to and from our region.”

The province produces world-class products, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said, and this is one more way to showcase that to the rest of the world.  “It’s time for Nova Scotia to get our swagger back. We have a lot to offer the world and when you see companies like Air Canada and Jazz… it just reaffirms what we have to offer the world,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said.

In 2021, Halifax Stanfield processed 34,769 metric tonnes of cargo, up 5.4 per cent from 2020. The value of exports in 2021 was $496 million CAD, up 6.3 per cent from the previous year.

Seafood is unique because it is often served fresh and air travel is the only way to ensure it can make it to paying customers on time to destinations all over the world.  Air cargo was transported by 12 carriers, and it should be no surprise that Nova Scotia seafood, specifically live lobster, continued to be the top exported products to markets abroad. 

In 2021, 12,757 metric tonnes of live lobster, at a value of $293 million CAD, were shipped from Halifax Stanfield to Asian and European markets. Other top exports were medical equipment ($53.2 million CAD) and aerospace-related parts ($41.4 million CAD).

As the Halifax International Airport Authority looks toward its pandemic recovery, air cargo remains a bright light for future growth and opportunities. Carriers are expanding their cargo operations at Halifax Stanfield, including Air Canada Cargo, who are making Halifax part of their regularly scheduled freighter operations and recently added a new a Boeing 767-300ER Cargo Freighter that will have the capacity to ship as much as 650 metric tonnes of air cargo each week to help businesses get their goods to market near and far.

“Our long-standing and strong bond with Atlantic Canada and the Nova Scotia community makes the first Canadian expansion of our freighter network not only a natural and obvious fit, but also one that makes us tremendously proud. We are thankful that we can continue to play a pivotal role and indeed increase our support to the robust and growing trade sector in the region,” said Matthieu Casey, Managing Director, Commercial – Cargo at Air Canada.

Overall, Halifax Stanfield cargo exports contributed $664 million to the provincial economy. Cargo capacity will grow when the ACLP building becomes fully operational later this year. With a total of eight cargo aircraft aprons now available, and cold storage capabilities coming soon, the Air Cargo Logistics Park will make shipping products by air even easier for Nova Scotian businesses and enable more cargo carriers to operate out of Halifax.

Funding for the Air Cargo Logistics Park construction was announced in 2018 from the Government of Canada ($18 million), the Government of Nova Scotia ($5 million) and Halifax International Airport Authority ($13 million).

Cargo Processed at Halifax Stanfield

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Volume (metric tonnes) 34,051 36,938 41,129 32,984 34,769
Value (CAD) $446 million $447 million $621 million $466 million $496 million


by Ryan Myson