Boeing’s newly released 2020 World Air Cargo Forecast anticipates more than 60 percent fleet growth over 20 years, driven largely by market requirements for medical supply transport and continuing e-commerce growth.
Enabled by a rebound in global trade and long-term growth, Boeing’s forecast projects a demand for 2,430 freighters over the next 20 years, including 930 new production freighters and 1,500 freighters converted from passenger airplanes.
According to the new forecast, world air cargo traffic will grow at 4 percent annually over the next 20 years. Growing at double-digit rates prior to the pandemic, e-commerce has accelerated its effect on the air cargo market as more businesses shifted to online selling platforms. As a result, express carriers saw a 14 percent increase in traffic through September compared with the same period last year.
Meanwhile, a significant decline in belly capacity due to a steep drop in passenger traffic caused by the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a 13 percent increase in dedicated freighter capacity. Still, as total capacity declined by 25 percent, freight operators saw yields increase 42 percent from January through September.
So far in 2020, about 200 airlines used more than 2,000 passenger widebody aircraft for cargo-only operations to generate cash flow and support global supply chains. Those so-called passenger freighters have compensated for some of the capacity shortfall and, in some cases, generated quarterly profits for carriers despite minimal passenger operations.
“Freighter operators have been in a unique position in 2020 to meet market requirements for speed, reliability, and security, transporting medical supplies and other goods for people and communities around the world,” said Boeing vice president of commercial marketing Darren Hulst. “Looking ahead, dedicated freighters will be even more critical to compete in air cargo markets; they carry more than half of air cargo traffic, and airlines operating them earn nearly 90 percent of air cargo industry revenue.”