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2011 year-end review, part three

By Hpanchal on December 16, 2011

Whitehead: As a relative newcomer to this industry (I became Hactl’s managing director in September 2010), but a long-term observer of others while working at a senior level, I have quickly learned how sensitive air cargo is to the health of the global economy and how reactive it is to consumer demand.

Air cargo is a business that can boom in response to the release of a single, new piece of consumer technology (i.e, the iPhone 4, the latest Playstation or the Kindle) or crash because fears of defaults in one small economy have threatened to upset the currency of 16 others. I now realize that the major strength of air cargo — its ability to respond to sudden changes in consumer demand — is also its major weakness.

I’m developing the view that any prediction in air cargo is pointless if it’s based only on a recent or short-lived trend (like the one displayed in 2010), rather than the extrapolation of a long-term picture that has been proven right by history. You could say that this risks missing the next major opportunity, but I don’t think so. It avoids the equally serious risk of assuming lots of additional overhead that could quickly become a millstone if predictions fall short.

History usually repeats itself, and long-term trends of the past, which incorporate past peaks and troughs, are a much better basis for predicting future trends. That alone is not enough, however. The trick is surely also to factor in additional growth from real prospects of business gains that are within your influence and consider the possible effects of any real or probable threats. But you must also accept that the short-term picture may still be impacted either positively or negatively by totally unforeseen events beyond our control. After all, that’s air cargo.

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