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            september 21, 2019

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E-comm, pharma, perishables cushion air cargo in downturns


Growing e-commerce volumes as well as pharma products and perishables give the air cargo sector a cushion of resilence in times of economic slowdowns, said IATA Cargo chief Glyn Hughes at the end of the three-day World Cargo Symposium (WCS) in Singapore.
While this was true enough, Mr Hughes said he found a mood of "buoyancy and optimism" in the industry reflected in the record attendance of nearly 1,300 delegates.
This despite IATA kicking off the WCS by lowering its 12-month growth projection for freight tonne km (FTK) to two per cent, noted London's Air Cargo News.
Said Mr Hughes: "The fact that it [WCS] had a record attendance was spectacular, but it was more about the buoyancy, optimism and passion that was displayed, even though this year had started particularly poorly with a 1.8 per cent contraction in January.
"This industry is more resilient than it has been in the past, with strong and positive signs, those being the growth in specialist products and e-commerce."
He said that one of the "resounding infrastructural changes" seen over the last couple of years is that, previously, a global financial crisis or other economic turbulence "meant that the cargo has stopped".
Mr Hughes said that signs of progress in the US-China trade talks and hoped-for clarity over Brexit were good news for the air cargo industry. "In whatever form it takes, clarity is clarity, and it is uncertainty which causes consumers to be more cautious and to stop spending.
"Of course we are also buoyed by the fact that passenger growth has continued at very high levels of 6.6 per cent, which tells us that the global economic prosperity and boom is continuing.
"The growth of the middle classes, another 100+ million joining the consuming classes, particularly in China and Southeast Asia, and the reduction in unemployment in the US, all these are very positive factors. So people are flying and people will be buying."
Despite a slowdown in the first two months of this year, Mr Hughes said that he was "very confident" that after the areas of uncertainty are resolved, then the industry can return to a "growth trajectory".
He said that almost every track at the WCS included digitisation, information sharing and collaborative working.
"Those three themes are common for every area and the industry needs to tackle them. We've got some challenges to really embrace this, but at the cargo committee meeting I have never seen the heads of cargo so bullish about embracing technology."
The next WCS will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, March 10-12, 2020

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