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Growth, growth, growth. The start of 2018 has been strong in air cargo – but there are some caveats which could see demand weaken over the year.

IATA reported that demand, measured in freight tonne km, rose 7.7% in the first two months of the year – the strongest start to a year since 2015, when the US west coast ports congestion saw container volumes shift to air.

Demand outstripped growth for the 19th consecutive month, with available FTKs rising 5.6%, boosting yields.

Worldwide yields grew 19.9% in US dollars, according to WorldACD, and rose 3.8% in euros. It added that the worldwide air cargo yield climbed to a level of $1.91 in February, 1% above January and 23.1% higher than in February 2017.

The data company said it was “a good start of the year by any standard (except by the standard of the extraordinary year 2017).

“Yet, we still reserve our final judgment, as past experience has taught us that the post-Chinese new year effects may last as long as three weeks, in other words into March.”

It added: “The origins Asia Pacific and Americas grew more than average in these two months (+9.3% and +8.4% year on year respectively). Europe, Central & South America and Africa were the best destinations (+9.5%, +8.5% and +8.4% respectively).

IATA warned that the market may not continue to grow at the same pace. It cited the Purchasing Managers’ Index, which has softened in a “number of key exporting nations, including Germany, China and the US”.

It added that, seasonally adjusted, air freight demand is now at 3%, while last year it was in double-digits.

And, of course, there’s the Trump factor: the potential trade war between the US and China is likely to affect all transport modes, with US perishable exports in particular affecting air freight. IATA has warned against protectionism.

“The positive outlook for the rest of 2018, however, faces some potentially strong headwinds, including escalation of protectionist measures into a full-blown trade war,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general.

“Prosperity grows when borders are open to people and to trade, and we are all held back when they are not.”

You can read IATA’s full analysis here, and WorldACD’s here. It has also analysed yields, which you can see here.

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