Tariffs haven't impacted air cargo — yet

cargo packaged on lift ready for loading on white airplane

October 9, 2018 - The pace of air freight growth in August 2018 was nearly unchanged from July, as freight ton kilometers (FTKs) grew 2.3%, according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 

Supply of air freight, measured in available freight ton kilometers (AFTKs) grew 4.5%, an increase over July's rate of 3.8%.

Air freight volumes for the year continue to trend upward at a rate of 4%, IATA said, "helped by strong levels of consumer confidence and an ongoing upturn in the global investment cycle."

Seaports have seen huge jumps in volumes, as businesses rushed to import goods before tariffs went into place. The effect on airports, however, has not been quite the same. 

"We estimate that the direct impacts on air freight from the initial tariffs are relatively small," IATA stated in its analysis. 

Many of the tariffs in early rounds did not pertain to goods that are typically transported by air. The data in IATA's latest report is collected from August, before the latest round of tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from China came into place at the end of September. 

"As the list of tariffs grows so does the air cargo industry’s vulnerability," Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of IATA, said in a press release. IATA said further escalation in trade tensions could have larger impacts, direct or indirect, on the air cargo industry.

The Airports Council International (ACI), which also tracks air freight growth, said "economic uncertainty" threatens the air cargo industry. 

"With the volatility around increased protectionism between major trading nations set to continue to the end of 2018, these barriers to free trade could stifle the flow of cargo even further," said Angela Gittens, ACI World director general, as cited by Air Cargo News. 

Source: Supply Chain Dive