Air cargo – quiet economic powerhouse

At last month¡¯s TIACA AGM/Executive Conference in Cologne, Germany, the director general of the Airports Council International (ACI), Rob Aaronson delivered a presentation in a session, which was called ¡®Great Expectations¡¯. Here are the highlights of his speech.


Most experts agree that air cargo provides a barometer for global economic swings. One of them, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was keenly aware of the importance of air cargo in the global economy. Greenspan, when assessing the health of the US economy, often phoned Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, to see how the express parcel business was performing. Greenspan saw these shipments as a clear snapshot of the trendline for the entire economy.

In the very short term, brisk parcel deliveries mirrored a vibrant economy. In the mid-term, he knew that air cargo volumes tended to begin to track down as much as six months before an economic downturn, as manufacturers slowed production and shippers trimmed inventories. At the low point in the downturn, cargo volumes would begin to tick upward when consumer confi dence returned and orders across the logistics supply chain rebounded.

Over the long term, the prospects are rosy – ACI Forecasts predict tripling of volume by 2025 as reported in ACI’s recently published edition of the Global Traffi c Forecasts 2006-2025.

In our industry, the importance of cargo is not always fully recognised, with passenger services grabbing most of the attention of governments, politicians and the public. I am sure this audience wishes that air cargo had more fans like Alan Greenspan, who understands the value of this quiet cargo powerhouse. The benefi t for local economies is tremendous, including the approximately 700,000 airport jobs related to air cargo business worldwide.