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Air cargo 'integral' to economy's growth

By Adina Solomon

Nobody knows what the future holds for air cargo, Andrew Herdman said.

But that didn’t stop the director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines from speculating.

“Air cargo is carrying about $6 trillion worth of goods, so air cargo’s an integral part of the growth of the economy,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that we’ll see a resumption of growth in air cargo in line with the growth of the global economy.”

Herdman visited Washington, D.C., during the last week of March to meet with the Transportation Security Administration on cargo security, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of State on political issues.

Herdman makes a trip to Washington a few times a year because much of the regulatory agenda surrounding aviation is driven out of the U.S., he said.

He told Air Cargo World that high oil prices drive the latest airfreight technology trends.

“There’s tremendous pressure to deploy new equipment, so you see airlines ordering and putting into service new freighters and conversely, people are retiring older generation of aircraft, including older freighters and particularly converted freighters,” he said. “That’s changing the dynamics of fleet makeup to custom-built freighters as opposed to the traditional route of using converted passenger aircraft.”

Herdman said air cargo spends most of its time on the ground, so in order to improve efficiency, the industry must address ground delays by shifting to paperless cargo.

Herdman also spoke about the main traffic lanes in Asia Pacific airfreight. Often, finished goods travel outbound from Asia to Europe or Asia to the U.S., but another lane is rising in popularity.

“As Asia gets richer in terms of rising incomes – it’s not so much richer as less poor – you’ve got growing numbers of middle-income consumers in Asia, so you do see some pickup in inbound airfreight into Asia,” Herdman said. “But the main driver is still Asia has the factories of the world and exports.”

Though Asia’s year-over-year growth for air cargo remains stagnate, Herdman said he is hopeful the region will soon bounce back.

“This particular downturn has been more severe than anything we’ve ever experienced in the past and honestly, that’s challenging for everybody in the business,” he said. “But I’ve no doubt we’ll see long-term growth in air cargo, and Asian carriers will be a big part of that.”