Boeing and Airbus raise their 20-year outlook for air cargo

Continued growth in demand for shipping goods by air will result in a global freighter fleet in 2041 that will be 80% larger than today, Boeing said this weekend in a slightly higher market outlook. optimistic for air cargo than a year ago and compared to its rival Airbus. ‘ new forecast.

The rosier analysis explains why Boeing predicts a need for 540 more dedicated freighters than Airbus over the next 20 years.

The world’s leading jet manufacturers have unveiled their vision for the future of the passenger and air cargo markets 20 years from now on the eve of the prestigious Farnborough International Airshow in England, where they are expected to announce further aircraft contracts. planes.

On Monday, All Nippon Airways finalized a recent expression of interest for two all-new 7777-8 freighters, and Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) officially signed on to purchase 100 737-10 MAX single-aisle jets. Additionally, Aircompany Armenia and its partner company Georgian Airlines announced an order for three Boeing 737-800 Converted Freighters as part of the group’s plan to add more dedicated cargo aircraft to its operations in the Caucasus region.

Boeing expects air cargo volumes to reach compound annual growth of 4.1% over the next two decades, an increase of one-tenth of a point from last year’s report, based on growth expected from GDP, industrial production, global trade and e-commerce. The 10-year outlook foresees growth of 4.3%.

Airbus, more conservative, said freight traffic would grow at an annual rate of 3.2% through 2041, with the express sector outpacing general freight at 4.9% against growth of 2.7%. Airbus’ estimate is higher than last year, when it pegged express cargo growth at 4.7%. The express share of global cargo volume is expected to rise from 17 percent in 2019 to 25 percent, he added.

The American aerospace giant, which is returning from the fallout of the pandemic, the grounding of the 737 MAX and the production snafus with the 787 Dreamliner, has predicted that maintaining this traffic will require nearly 2,800 additional freighters, including 940 new wide-body models, to be delivered by 2041 – half to replace older, less fuel-efficient aircraft and the other half to meet increased maritime demand. Two-thirds (1,855) of the additional cargo jets will be passenger aircraft converted for a new mission, and 70% of them will be standard-body aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320/321 families.

Boeing’s commercial market outlook had 2,250 freighter jets globally at the end of last year, up from 2010 before the pandemic, as operators delayed retirements and pulled older planes from deep storage. to support booming cargo demand after airlines halted most passenger flights.

The company’s forecast in 2041 for the fleet to reach 3,610 units with an average annual growth rate of 3% represents an increase of almost 7% compared to last year, reflecting expectations for higher growth traffic and replacement needs. Estimates for factory-built and factory-converted freighters are higher than in the 2021 outlook.

In the narrow-body segment, the global fleet is expected to almost double (more than 90%) from 2021, with wide-bodied aircraft growing by 75%. Boeing said half of its current 660 large freighters are approaching retirement age and the industry will need 515 units for replacement and growth needs. Last year, he estimated a need for 450 new wide-body freighters.

Airbus’ lower estimate for air cargo demand influenced its projection of cargo requirements. The European aircraft maker said the industry will need 2,440 freighter deliveries, with nearly 900 of them from new production and the rest from modified passenger planes. It puts the total freighter fleet at 3,070 units in 2041, of which 1,400 represent replacement aircraft, 1,040 from growth and 630 current units remaining in service. The 20-year freight estimate increased from 2,980 aircraft in the 2021 outlook.

Both market outlooks assume that world trade will double in 20 years, based on annual growth of around 2.85%. This growth rate is slower than the 4.8% recorded in the 20 years preceding the pandemic.

Air freight is gaining ground

In addition to macroeconomic trends, several forces are driving an increase in the use of air cargo and interest in all-cargo aircraft.

Airlines generated record freight revenues and enjoyed returns double those of 2019 due to tight capacity and shifts in consumer habits as economic lockdowns pushed economies out of sync. Air cargo volumes in 2021 are up nearly 7% from pre-pandemic levels. Significant shipping disruptions have rendered schedule reliability almost non-existent, and stratospheric container rate increases have narrowed the price gap significantly. Three years ago, air transport was 10 to 15 times more expensive than maritime transport. Today, average air fares are only five times higher than ocean fares. Changing market conditions have caused many companies to convert part of their shipments to air transport.

Cargo movement is still constrained by the late resumption of long-haul passenger travel, which is only around 65% of 2019 levels and typically occurs on wide-body aircraft that can also accommodate large amounts of cargo. Before the pandemic, around 50% of global cargo traffic moved in passenger holds. Today, main deck freighters carry two-thirds of the world’s air freight.

The pandemic has emphasized speed and reliability, the main strengths of air cargo. It has also forced many companies to reassess their supply chains and reduce the risks associated with labor and supplier issues, weather events or geopolitical events. Boeing said the trend towards resilience could benefit air cargo as manufacturers and logistics providers consider ways to diversify supply chains. Supply chains with more nodes in the system can benefit from the flexibility of air cargo and point-to-point service, Boeing said.

The biggest shift in favor of long-term air cargo growth is e-commerce, which has doubled its share of retail sales in the past five years and relies heavily on express delivery networks with airborne capabilities. day and night to meet the demanding expectations of customers. for fast delivery.

Boeing is building 767 medium-body and 777 larger freighters through 2027, with the next-generation 777-8 taking over from there. Boeing has yet to develop a replacement for the 767 freighter, which has been rendered obsolete by pending international rules on emissions. It also has an extensive used 737-800 freighter conversion program.

Airbus has fallen behind Boeing in the freighter space, but is making a big step forward with its new A350 big freighter, along with a new conversion program for the A320/321 and a revitalized passenger-cargo program for the ‘A330.

Passenger market

Overall, Boeing forecasts demand for more than 41,000 new planes through 2041, representing a market value of $7.2 trillion. Airlines will increase the combined passenger/cargo fleet at a compound annual growth rate of 2.8%, bringing total inventory to 47,080 units from 25,900 in 2019. The current planned fleet is 7.6% smaller due to pandemic-induced structural changes, such as downsizing. and a move towards larger single-aisle jets, and the exclusion of potential sales to Russia and Central Asia due to war-related sanctions in Ukraine.

Wide-body aircraft will continue to represent approximately 18% of the total aircraft population, but the estimate of 7,230 units is down 11% from 2019. Small and medium wide-body aircraft, such as the 787, have gained market share from larger aircraft, such as the A380 and A380. 747 because aircraft range is less dependent on size these days.

Airbus, again, came up with a lower figure for the total aircraft fleet. It projects a demand for 39,490 new passenger and freighter aircraft over the next 20 years with a total in-service fleet of 46,930.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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