These days, it seems like everybody on the planet owns at least one Apple product, be it an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Macintosh computer. The company's ubiquitous inventions have forever changed consumer culture. Less widely recognized is the impact Apple's product releases have had on the transportation market.
Whenever it introduces a new product, Apple ships millions of the item by air to its own stores and other retail outlets. According to a recent commentary by John Manners-Bell, CEO of the London-based research firm Transport Intelligence, Apple's demand for air-cargo capacity is so great that it is "able to skew rates across a large proportion of the global air cargo market."
When the company launched its newest iPad in March 2012, Manners-Bell reports, airfreight rates from China to the United States jumped by 20 percent. He warns that a similar rate spike could occur in late September if, as rumor has it, Apple ships not only its next-generation iPhone but also the iPad Mini and a redesigned iPod Nano.
Apple's ability to command air-cargo capacity is another concern. Manners-Bell notes that in March, freight forwarders struggled to serve their customers in part because carriers had reduced their capacity in response to weak volumes. That poses cost and service risks, not only for shippers but also for forwarders. "Rising prices at a time of falling volumes will impact severely on forwarders' gross margins," he writes, "unless, of course, they are fortunate enough to be working for Apple."