We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Fri 5 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Cautious but optimistic...

"We are cautious but optimistic". That is the phrase that has been rolled out most frequently by senior executives responding to our annual review questions about how they foresee the coming year.

"We are cautious but optimistic". That is the phrase that has been rolled out most frequently by senior executives responding to our annual review questions about how they foresee the coming year.

That same comment might well have been used at the same period last year, as airfreight operators waited to see what 2008 would bring.

The astonishing point about this year is how many airlines and forwarders, particularly those in the Middle East, managed not only to keep their heads above water but achieve some spectacular results along the way.

It's clearly been something of a stellar year for Maximus Air Cargo, which has made a mockery of the dire economic situation by posting record figures, a factor which no doubt led to the purchase of the company last month by Abu Dhabi Aviation.

Its impressive results, together with the fact that it owns its entire fleet, no doubt made the company a juicy prospect for investors and it is, again, certainly one to watch in 2009.

For the larger companies, it is already obvious that the slowdown in profit at the region's largest carrier, Emirates Airline, has grabbed all the headlines. But that hardly begins to tell the story as - let's face it - it's hardly all doom and gloom.

Such steep rises in profits naturally had to slow down at some point, and the extra capacity and routes laid on in the last quarter show that Dubai's biggest operator is not intent on sitting on its laurels. SkyCargo now makes up almost a fifth of the entire Emirates revenue, and saw cargo traffic rise by 11% in the last fiscal year.

Air Cargo Middle East & India's second fleet survey is a good snapshot of how the freighter fleet in the region is progressing.

There are more freighter aircraft on order than ever before and, not surprisingly, these future orders will mainly take advantage of the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft the cargo world has ever seen.

So where will these new aircraft be deployed? It's a good guess that Middle Eastern airlines will be champing at the bit to take up the slack capacity in the Asia Pacific market, with one consultancy in Asia stating that no carrier there would make a profit in 2009.

The last quarter has been hard even on the biggest cargo operators, with Korean Air, the world's largest international freighter carrier in terms of freight tonne kilometres, suffering especially badly.

There can't have been many who felt that the Middle East would escape the economic slump, but our sector is certainly still best placed to take advantage of the misfortunes of others.

So while the need for caution is paramount, there is also much for the region's airlines to be optimistic about in terms of the year ahead.

If you have any views on this or any other issue, we would love to hear from you. Please send your comments to edward.attwood@itp.comEd Attwood is the deputy editor of Air Cargo Middle East & India.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.