Airbus GMF forecasts 2,500 freighters to be added over the next two decades

747 freighters continue to play a major role in the air freight industry. As they age, what will replace them?

Freighter demand by category. Source: Airbus GMF.

Airbus forecasts a total of 2,800 freighters will be in service by 2038 a net increase of 1,000 units from today’s totals, the company stated in its Global Market Forecast (GMF) released this week.

Despite the recent slowdown in airfreight growth, Airbus is more bullish on the freighter market compared to previous years on the low incidence of freighter retirements, and “historically” low levels of stored aircraft currently seen in the market. The GMF estimated that about 6% of the fleet is currently in storage, compared to 23% in 2009. There were also just 30 retirements recorded by Airbus in 2018, much lower than the average of 108 units per year retired during previous ten years. Fewer parked aircraft and delayed retirements, Airbus says, is a sign that overcapacity is not currently an issue.

Regardless of the increased optimism, Airbus holds steadfast on its expectation that in 20 years, 60% of air cargo will move in passenger bellies. Boeing, meanwhile, forecasts a belly-to-freighter equilibrium closer to 50%, leading to it to forecast a larger freighter fleet of 3,260 units by 2037.

See how Airbus’ forecast compares to the 2019 Cargo Facts Consulting Freighter Forecast here and Boeing’s 2018 World Air Cargo Forecast here.

Returning to Airbus’ GMF, in order to reach a freighter fleet of 2,800 units by 2038, some 2,500 freighters will be delivered or redelivered over the next two decades, with 60% needed for growth, and 40% for replacement. Of these, 1,631 will be conversions and 855 will be production freighters. Airbus expects demand for about 500 medium widebody freighters (40-80 tonnes) and 360 in the large widebody freighters (80+ tonnes), up from 826 units last year.

Despite robust demand for production freighters, Airbus offers only one production freighter, the A330-200F, which begs the question of whether the company will offer additional widebody freighter variants. Two likely options include either a medium widebody production freighter based on a stretched version of the A330-900, or a large widebody based on the A350-1000, but Airbus has not discussed either option recently. With regards to freighter conversions, Airbus’ offering is more comprehensive through its JV-subsidiary EFW, which offers freighter-converted A330-200s and -300s and is developing STCs for A320 family conversions.

To hear more from Airbus, Boeing and EFW, join us for the 25th Annual Cargo Facts Symposium, Oct. 16-18 at the InterContinental San Diego. With unparalleled networking and continuing education opportunities, Cargo Facts Symposium consistently attracts the best in the industry. To register and for more information visit http://www.cargofactssymposium.comtoday!

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