While it has been a year of growing uncertainty for the global airfreight market, interest and activity in the Middle East industry has on the surface continued to excel.
In this month's edition of Air Cargo Middle East & India, leading cargo airlines share their thoughts and reservations on the current conditions of the industry. Confronted by the uncomfortable pressure of faltering economies in the US and Europe, many are nervously eyeing the future and preparing for the stone cold reality that capacity could continue to outstrip overall demand.
The general consensus seems to be that pushing the panic button just yet would be premature. Warning signs have surfaced throughout the year - the constant announcements from airlines increasing fuel surcharges or growing public scrutiny towards the industry's environmental impact - but as proven in the past, the airfreight market is only as healthy as the economy it operates within. If the euro and especially the dollar recover next year, business plans will immediately differ.
Unfortunately being the most efficient form of transporting goods over long distances means airfreight comes with its additional costs. Quality and value of service aside, cargo operators are at all times aware that if a customer is under financial strain, cutting costs will often begin by evaluating other modes of transport. The flip side of the coin is during times of prosperity investors are immediately attracted to airfreight's obvious time saving qualities.
Experiencing phenomenal growth in 2007, such concerns failed to faze the Middle East. Leading regional players, such as Etihad and Emirates, have continued with fierce expansion policies both in terms of aircrafts and destinations. The year has also seen much bold action from the likes of Oman Air and Royal Jordanian as they set about strengthening their respective national cargo offerings. With a new cargo airline entering the market this very month, it is safe to claim that the threat of capacity outstripping demand does not seem a dominant thought on this side of the globe.
Looking further ahead, the goliath airport that will appear at Jebel Ali is a brave statement to the world that the industry in the Middle East believes demand will only continue to escalate. A record-breaking cargo hub in a way that only Dubai knows how, it reiterates a positive vision of the future, one in which the airfreight market looks sure to thrive.
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