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The iPhone 5’s launch was so massive that it boosted the air cargo industry

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
FedEx workers unload one of the company’s cargo planes last year; this year, the firm’s fortunes were bolstered by Apple’s newest iPhone.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

“Air cargo companies saw an increase in cargo volume tied to the launch of various smartphones and computer tablets, which favor shipment by air over other modalities.”

That’s from the US Federal Reserve’s quarterly Beige Book, a collection of anecdotal economic observations from the Fed’s branches around the country.

Overall, expectations are cautiously optimistic, with mostly activity flat or expanding modestly. However, the idea that the iPhone 5 launch (and that’s really what we’re talking about here, although other tech toys contributed) could boost air shippers like FedEx and UPS is fairly notable: It shows how Apple, the world’s biggest company, affects the global economy.

Before the iPhone 5’s launch, JP Morgan economists even predicted that the company’s newest phone would give a 0.25 to 0.5 percentage-point bump to US GDP in the fourth quarter. FedEx restricted employee vacation and training to prepare for a surge in volume when the new iPhone came out. After all, if you sell more than 5 million units in three days, the only way to get them over from Asia is to fly them.

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