When Apple releases its latest model of the iPhone—as expected today—Asian airline carriers should get a much-needed lift. Shipments of an estimated 60 million iPhones over the upcoming holiday season from production plants in China to retail outlets around the world should give Asia Pacific carriers like Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Korean Air, and ANA a boost in freight volumes.
It couldn’t come at a better time: Six of the world’s largest freight airlines are in the Asia Pacific region, where cargo volume and passenger traffic has only recently started recovering from the financial crisis. The International Air Transport Association reported freight tonnage grew only 1.4% in 2013 after falling the previous year.
“The new iPhone launch is going to be a massive boost to air cargo. Last year in November we had a boost from both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One and that lasted for three months,” Enno Osinga, vice-chairman of the International Air Cargo Association, told the South China Morning Post.
The production of Apple products in China has given rise to a supply chain that ships high-value electronic components across Asia and has turned Zhengzhou, where the bulk of iPhones are now made, into the fastest growing cargo airport in China. Cargo carriers like Cargolux have added added a third flight between Zhengzhou and Luxembourg. Cathay Pacific already operates six flights between Zhengzhou and Hong Kong.
Shipments of the new iPhone could add as much as 1% to China’s overall exports in the third quarter of this year and as much as 2% to to Taiwan’s, according to Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.
Still, the boost may not be as good as it has been in years past. The 2010 release of the iPad boosted freight among Asia Pacific carriers by as much as 34% in the month after the product launched, but that kind of growth has faded in recent years as slower economic growth has dampened consumer appetite. More new products are also being consumed within the countries where they are manufactured, according to Credit Suisse.