Of the 2,430 new and converted freighter deliveries Boeing expects globally during the next 20 years, 40% will be delivered to carriers in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Boeing’s Market Spotlight presentation this week at the Cargo Facts Asia 2021 virtual event.
The region is expected to see the largest share of freighter deliveries, due largely to projections that long-haul connectivity with Asia will be the majority driver of airfreight growth through 2039, according to Boeing’s forecast based on world GDP, world trade and industrial production forecasts.
“World air cargo traffic is forecasted to grow 4.0% per year over the next 20 years,” Tom Hoang, regional director of cargo marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said during the session. “When we look at the major trade lanes, anything that moves in, out and within Asia will lead the way in terms of growth.”
The East Asia-North America and East Asia-Europe trade lanes led cargo traffic in revenue tonne kilometers (RTKs) in 2019, according to Boeing’s data, and will continue to do so in the next two decades. Meanwhile, the Intra-East Asia & Oceania trade lane, which fell below North America RTKs in 2019, is predicted to surpass the region in annual growth in the years ahead.
Many of those trade lanes have also seen strong demand and subsequently high cargo yields during 2020 and 2021, thanks to the current cargo capacity shortage, Hoang said. Globally, cargo yields increased by more than 50% year over year in 2020 and rose by 76% YoY for the first two months of 2021.
“For the first two months of 2021, what we saw was that air cargo rates from Asia to Europe increased by almost 160%, and rates from Asia to the U.S. increased by almost 150% [year over year],” Hoang said. The high cargo yields and shortage of capacity have spurred nearly 200 airlines to offer cargo-only operations using 2,623 passenger freighters, based on Cargo Facts data.
Looking ahead at the next two decades, while many of the expected deliveries will go toward fleet renewals as older freighters are retired, the global freighter fleet is expected to grow to 3,260 freighters from 2019’s total of 2,010. The largest share of deliveries, covering about 1,080 freighters of the expected deliveries, will be made up of standard-body conversions such as 737, 757, A320, A321 and similarly sized converted freighters, Hoang said.
Closely following the Asia-Pacific region in the share of expected deliveries is North America, with an expected 35% of deliveries through 2039, said Hoang. The remaining 25% will go to Europe, Russia, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.