Some 2,430 freighters will be required over the next 20 years, including 930 new production freighters and 1,500 freighters converted from passenger airplanes.

    That’s according to Boeing’s latest World Air Cargo Forecast (WACF), which the manufacturer says reflects Covid-19 “impacts and opportunities” as well as substantial long-term demand for freighters over the next two decades.

    Boeing WACF 1
    Taken from Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast. Click to enlarge.

    The WACF predicts a strong rebound in global trade and projects long-term growth.

    Volga Dnepr

    According to the new forecast, world air cargo traffic will grow at four per cent per year over the next 20 years. This growth will be influenced by trade and growing express shipments to support expanding e-commerce operations, Boeing said.

    With these developments and the “proven need for dedicated freighter capacity to support the world’s transportation system”, the global air cargo fleet is expected to grow by more than 60 per cent until 2039.

    Boeing WACF 2
    Taken from Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast. Click to enlarge.

    “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’s 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 per cent of air cargo industry revenue.”

    Boeing WACF 3
    Taken from Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast. Click to enlarge.

    Boeing’s WACF has also acknowledged the strong growth of e-commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector was previously growing at “double-digit rates”, but its impact on the air cargo market has accelerated during the pandemic “as more businesses shifted to online selling platforms”. Express carriers increased traffic by 14 per cent year-to-date, until the end of September.

    Passenger belly cargo, which in 2019 accounted for about half of the world air cargo capacity, was significantly reduced though as airlines parked thousands of aircraft, Boeing noted in the forecast. Freighter operators responded by operating above normal utilisation levels, and traffic for all-cargo carriers grew six per cent.

    Boeing WACF 4
    Taken from Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast. Click to enlarge.

    “So far in 2020, approximately 200 airlines used more than 2,000 passenger widebody aircraft for cargo-only operations to generate cash flow and support global supply chains,” Boeing stated. “These passenger freighters have taken up some of the capacity shortfall and, in some cases, generated quarterly profits for carriers despite minimal passenger operations.”

    The full cargo market forecast can be found here.