Boeing Forecasts Sharp Rebound in Commercial Airplane Demand

 - July 15, 2010, 8:57 AM

Boeing’s 2010 Current Market Outlook, released today in London, projects a $3.6 trillion market for new commercial airplanes over the next 20 years, as world economies rebound and strong demand for new and replacement aircraft spurs growth. Boeing forecasts a market for 30,900 new commercial passenger and freighter airplanes by 2029.

“The world market is doing much better than last year, but there are still challenges,” said Randy Tinseth, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing. “Looking at 2010, we see a world economy that continues to recover. We expect the world economy to grow above the long-term trend this year. As a result, both passenger and cargo travel will grow this year. Airline revenue and yields are up, but fuel prices remain volatile.”

The forecast calls for passenger traffic to grow at a 5.3 percent annual rate over the long term, driven by economic growth from regions with diverse airplane needs. According to Boeing, the single-aisle airplane segment will continue to dominate growth worldwide due to the proliferation of low-cost carriers, emerging markets such as India, China and Southeast Asia and continuing instability of fuel prices. The single-aisle segment has outpaced long-haul markets over the last decade and will continue to trend upward as operators retire older fleets, said the forecast.

In geographic terms, the Asia-Pacific region, led by China, shows the potential for the most robust market gains.

“Today, about one-third of all airline traffic touches the Asia-Pacific region, and as a result of the growth in this market, by 2029 almost 43 percent of all traffic will be to, from or within the region,” said Tinseth.

The most significant number of buyers of twin-aisle airplanes will also come from Asia, and account for about 40 percent of the total demand, according to the report.

Tinseth said the Middle East will remain strong as well, taking advantage of geography, demographics, airplane technology and well coordinated growth and investment plans.

Meanwhile, the North American and European markets will see substantial demand for replacement airplanes as they retire aging, less-efficient jets. Robust growth in emerging markets with dynamic populations and growing incomes will lead toward a more balanced airplane demand worldwide, according to the forecast.

Boeing predicts that airlines will grow by responding to passenger preference for more flight choices, lower fares and direct access to a wider range of destinations. Air carriers will focus on offering more flights using more efficient airplanes, rather than on using significantly larger airplanes. As a result, Boeing projects a market for large airplanes (747 and larger) of just 720 units worth $220 billion over the next 20 years, with 45 percent of the demand coming from Asian customers and 23 percent from Middle Eastern customers.

Boeing projects the world freighter fleet to increase from 1,750 to 2,980 airplanes–an increase of more than two-thirds, resulting in a requirement for 2,490 freighters. Additions to the fleet will include 740 new-production freighters (worth $180 billion at today’s catalog prices) and 1,750 airplanes converted from passenger models, according to Boeing. Large freighters (more than 88.2 tons capacity) will account for 520 new-build airplanes. Demand for medium-size freighters (44.1 to 88.2 tons) will total 210 airplanes. It expects virtually all of the standard-body freighters (49.6 tons) to come from conversions of passenger airplanes.

The recession resulted in significantly reduced air cargo traffic in 2009, the base year for the Boeing forecast. From there, Boeing forecasts that world air cargo traffic will increase at an annual average of 5.9 percent through 2029, including a nearly 14-percent traffic growth this year alone.

“The inclusion of the high-traffic growth levels in 2010, following the recession, is driving our cargo forecast upward,” said Tinseth. “However, the strength of the industry and its growth will continue to be driven by sound fundamentals–speed and reliability, consumer product innovation and global industrial interdependence.”