Just a few decades ago, advances in aviation almost seemed to eliminate the need for an airport in Anchorage. A flight from Shanghai to Dallas was suddenly possible.
But manufacturers and carriers came to realize a few things. Fuel is heavy, for example. And fuel doesn't pay for its space and weight on a plane. If a 747 fills the tank only halfway and makes a pit stop in Anchorage, more paying cargo gets on board.
A cargo plane might make $130,000 flying direct from Asia to the Lower 48, said Bob Poe of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. That same plane can make $220,000 just by stopping in Anchorage, Poe said, because it can carry more cargo and less fuel.
Last year, Anchorage unseated Tokyo as the third-busiest cargo airport in the world (Memphis and Hong Kong are first and second, respectively). Most international cargo planes arrive in Anchorage for a "quick turn" that amounts to about an hour on the ground.
So this explains why FedEx and UPS plan to stop in ANC with their A380s.