Online shopping and the launch of new personal electronic products in recent weeks have helped spur demand for express and air cargo early in the fourth quarter, boosting hopes of a sustainable rebound in the air cargo market next year.
Express freight giant FedEx Express has welcomed the growth in online shopping, especially noticeable in the Asia-Pacific region. Its expects shipments on its busiest day this year to jump 13 per cent from last year in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday.
FedEx expects to move 22 million shipments on December 2, almost double the number on its busiest day six years ago.
The year's busiest day for FedEx has been moving gradually forward, from December 17 in 2007 to December 2 this year, because shoppers are shopping earlier for holiday items in order to better spread their gift budget, according to the Washington-based National Retail Federation.
This year will be the first in which FedEx's busiest day will coincide with Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving Day when online retailers cut prices for technology products.
Cathay Pacific Airways said it had put on a number of extra flights and charters in order to meet air cargo demand, buoyed by new products from Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. "The market demand from Hong Kong to transpacific is currently fairly strong," Cathay cargo director James Woodrow said.
E-commerce is growing at three to four times the rate of traditional retail sales at physical outlets, eMarketer, a research company that focuses on digital media and internet marketing, said in June.
Growth in the Asia-Pacific region was leading the way, with sales expected to grow 23 per cent this year - accounting for nearly a third of global on-line retailing, eMarketer said.
Growth in air cargo demand, including express cargo and general air cargo, was muted in the first three quarters of the year, with Asia-Pacific operators hardest hit by weak demand from the United States and Europe.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw cargo traffic fall 3.1 per cent year on year in September, with traffic in the first three quarters down 2.1 per cent, the International Air Transport Association said.