In its latest Market Outlook spanning the next 2 decades and published today (17JUL22), U.S. frame maker, Boeing, forecasts a faster growth of the cargo business compared to the passenger
business. It differs significantly from an Airbus analysis in which air freight is predicted to advance at a significantly slower pace over the next 20 years. There are reasons for this
Great timing by the marketing people of aircraft producer Boeing! Their long-term analysis appears just before the Farnborough International Airshow is due to kick off, offering industry representatives, journalists, exhibitors, and the general public plenty of new impressions and much food for thought. FIA opens its doors on 18JUL22 and closes them five days later.
Cargo takes the lead
Here are the key figures in Boeing’s 2022-2041 Outlook: Global passenger traffic is expected to grow by 3.8% (Revenue Passenger Kilometers – RPK) on average until 2041, while the Boeing experts forecast cargo tonnage to increase by 4.1% (RTK) in the given period. This almost matches the estimated growth rate of 4.2% published in the manufacturer’s previous market survey. Should this prediction become reality, and cargo grow by more than 4%, then it will be the first time in a long time, that cargo takes the lead. Presumably, this is music to the ears of most cargo players, further boosting their self-confidence. However, the figures are relative, because passenger traffic is much more relevant than the freight business in aviation, due to its sheer volume, accounting for 80% or even 90% of total airline revenues. At least this is true for combination carriers and thus for the vast majority of commercial carriers.
Boeing forecasts 2,795 freighter deliveries by 2041
Concerning the long-term freighter fleet development, the U.S. aircraft producer expects 3,610 commercial all-cargo aircraft to be operational by 2041, versus 2,010 in 2019. Of these, 515 will be newly built large widebody freighters, 555 widebody conversions, 425 new medium widebodies, and 1,300 standard-body conversions such as the Boeing B737 or Airbus A320/21. However, Russian-produced freighters have been left out of Boeing’s survey, while Airbus has integrated them in their European market figures.
Another noteworthy remark made by Boeing in its prognosis: It is becoming apparent that India will be the new powerhouse, in both passenger and cargo traffic. “In terms of growth rates in the air cargo market, India is going to be the new China,” states the U.S. manufacturer.
Forecast supports own product philosophy
And Airbus? Their market people, supported by analyst Seabury, predict an annual cargo growth of 3.2% until 2041, with express outgrowing standard freight (view chart).
„While both players basically share the same view on the growth of aviation in general, Airbus is distinctively more pessimistic on cargo,” comments market expert, Heinrich Grossbongardt. AB’s market forecasts have long tended to support its product policy on the basis of the assumptions made there, he says. For example, for a long time, Airbus forecast a great future for the A380. Even when the production end became apparent, the plane maker still predicted a demand for 1,500 A380s.
Apart from the A350F, Airbus has nothing to offer in its own freighter product portfolio. However, this newest variant has been applauded by the industry, as shown by growing order numbers. In contrast, its A330-200F was more of a flop, with around 50 aircraft sold, while the B767F is a permanent success for Boeing, with almost 300 in operation. To catch up with Boeing, Airbus would have to expand its freighter family, especially since it is foreseeable that the B787-9F will come onto the market sooner or later, challenging the A350F.
P2F conversions play a major role
However, Airbus is very successful in another business field: the conversion of passenger to cargo aircraft (P2F). Last Friday (15JUL22), converter Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), and its Singapore-based shareholder ST Engineering announced the redelivery of the Airbus A320P2F, handing over the aircraft to launch customer, Vaayu Group at ST Engineering’s airframe facility in Singapore. The redelivery marks the birth of the world’s first A320P2F and the completion of the Airbus P2F family, developed jointly by ST Engineering, Airbus, and EFW. It joins the other already operational Airbus P2F platforms: the A330-300P2F, A330-200P2F, and A321P2F, which were first redelivered in 2017, 2018, and 2020, respectively.
“With this redelivery, our Airbus P2F family of narrowbody and widebody freighters is finally complete,” Jordi Boto, CEO of EFW, announced. The executive went on to say: “This comes at a ripe time as demand for converted freighters continues to surge. Our full suite of Airbus P2F solutions will serve to meet the current gap and future growth of the air freight market, while offering excellent choices and benefits to airlines looking to grow a diverse fleet of freighter aircraft with operating commonality.”
As the center of excellence for Airbus P2F conversions, Dresden, Germany-based EFW leads the overall program and manages all marketing and sales efforts.
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