Boeing expects air cargo traffic to double by 2033

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SEOUL — Boeing’s biennial World Air Cargo forecast paints a rosy next two decades for the industry with an annual growth rate of 4.7 percent over the next 20 years, more than doubling global airfreight traffic by 2013.

Boeing unveiled its forecast at the TIACA Air Cargo Forum here on Tuesday.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says a period of stagnation in airfreight traffic appears to be over.

“It’s clearly been a marketplace with challenges from the Great Recession,” Tinseth said. “Hopefully, we are looking at data that shows we are moving out of an era of slow growth to one of more typical growth.”

An improvement in global industrial production over the past 18 months bodes well for air cargo, Tinseth said. Much of the weak air cargo growth in recent years can be attributed to an underperforming world economy and lackluster trade growth, he said.

“There has been a lot of volatility in the market, but since 2012, we have seen slow, but consistent improvement, especially over the last 18 months,” he said. “We expect trade to grow at long-term trends and we see a one-to-one relationship between growth of trade growth of air cargo.”

The forecast shows Asia-North America and Europe-Asia continuing to dominate world air cargo markets with the greater traffic volume. Intra-Asia, domestic China and Asia-North America markets are expected to have the greatest rates of growth over the next 20 years.

The traffic growth bodes well for freighter deliveries. Boeing says the world freighter fleet will grow with deliveries of 840 new factory-built airplanes and 1,330 passenger to freighter conversions during that timeframe. More than 52 percent of those deliveries are expected to replace retiring aircraft with the remainder needed to handle the traffic growth. Boeing believes that more than 70 percent of the new, factory-built airplanes forecast to be delivered between 2014 and 2033 will be large freighters, such as the 747-8 and the 777.

Tinseth said there are currently more than 140 777s and 747-8Fs flying with strong records of reliability. They fly an average of 12 hours a day, he said.

“We are seeing more and more carriers start to get interested in buying freighters for the future,” he said.

The Boeing forecast, which has been published regularly since the 1980s, was compiled by a team of 10 analysts, led by Tom Crabtree, of Boeing’s Marketing & Business Development, Commercial Airplanes operation.

“The challenge is getting the data from the industry,” Crabtree said. “There is a lot of proprietary data out there.”

The forecast is an ongoing process and the next one will begin in earnest in a few months. Tinseth, who likened the effort to a “sausage-making” process, said Boeing uses the forecast to help develop its product strategy.

“It’s an important part of developing our long-range business plan,” he said. “We share it with our customers and suppliers to help them with the planning process.”

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