In its most recent Global Market Forecast, Airbus shared expectations that the global freighter fleet will grow by 1,072 aircraft to total 2,722 in-service freighters, for an increase of 65.0%, during the next twenty years.
This year’s forecast is even more optimistic than last year’s, when Airbus forecasted 49.7% growth to a fleet of 2,410 freighters by 2036. Airbus cited “private consumption increasing 2.4 times in emerging economies, higher disposable incomes, and a near doubling of the middle classes globally” for the dramatic increase. Total air traffic growth is expected to average 4.4% per year, requiring additional aircraft valued at US$5.8 trillion across passenger and freighter fleets.
Broken down regionally, the largest increase in freighter fleets is expected in the Asia-Pacific region, with a projected 152.2% increase to 802 freighters by the end of 2037. Other regions with notably strong fleet growth expected include Africa, with an expected 132.6% increase to 107 freighters, and the Middle East, which Airbus expects to grow to 136 freighters for a 94.3% increase. Meanwhile, North America – the region with the most freighters currently operating – faces more difficult comparisons and is expected to grow its freighter fleet by only 31.2% to 1,080 aircraft.
Of course, many of the freighters currently operating today are already older aircraft and will be retired within the next two decades. Airbus projects that of the 1,650 freighters operating at the beginning of 2018, 1,314 will be retired by the end of 2037. Within that same timeframe, 2,386 freighters – including 826 new deliveries and 1,560 conversions – are projected to join the global freighter fleet.