2800+ new freighters to be added in the next 20 years, forecast finds

This is the first of three posts on the future freighter fleet based on the 2019 Freighter Forecast, published by Cargo Facts Consulting.

The global freighter fleet will add 2,380 jet freighters and 421 feeder aircraft, according to Cargo Facts Consulting’s latest 20-Year Freighter Forecast.

The 2019 Freighter Forecast was released today by Cargo Facts Consulting (CFC), the sister consultancy to Cargo Facts.

About half of the aircraft that will be added to replace aircraft retired from the fleet, while the other half will cater to growth.

The additions will bring the world’s jet freighter fleet to 2,920 units by the end of 2028 from 1,782 aircraft, as of early this year. Meanwhile, the turboprop/ regional jet – or feeder – freighter fleet would grow to 431 planes from 239. Overall, CFC estimated that around 34% of required capacity will be met through passenger-to-freighter aircraft conversions and the remaining by production freighters.

CFC’s forecast looked at individual developments across four segments, from 8-tonne feeder aircraft through to 140-tonne 747-8 freighters: feeders, narrowbodies, medium and large widebodies. The consultancy’s predictions were driven by three underlying trends:

  • Long-term cargo growth is expected to be around 4% per year. This is less than the over 6% growth rates enjoyed by the industry until the early 2000s, but better than the average of the last 10 years. In the last 5 years, the average was more than 5%. While in the short term there will always be a mismatch in supply and demand, in the long term, traffic growth is the key determinant of freighter fleet additions. Half a percentage point difference in growth would lead to the requirement for plus or minus 280 jet and 40 feeder aircraft.
  • There will be a shift from freighters to the bellies of passenger planes. Passenger growth has outpaced freight growth and that means more passenger aircraft and belly capacity. Historically, 50% of freight has been carried on freighters, but CFC forecasted that this will move towards 40%. If things stay static, this would mean demand for an additional 300 planes, primarily to the benefit of the large widebody (777s and 747s) and also the medium widebody segment (767s and A330s), according to CFC. Narrowbodies and feeders are largely unaffected by the shift from freighters to bellies.
  • Freighters will be used more productively. A number of factors lead to more productive freighter usage: higher utilization through better maintenance, extra segments or more balanced trade flows. This reduces the demand for the number of freighters.

The Cargo Facts Consulting 2019 – 2038 Freighter Forecast contains detailed predictions for four key freighter segments, as well as an assessment of the airfreight demand environment and the supply of passenger aircraft for conversion to freighter aircraft, known as feedstock. CFC offers both near- and long-term outlooks for the freighter market. The report is supplemented with analytical tools that allow users to make their own predictions and analyze how the feedstock situation evolves for 21 different passenger aircraft with active or potential conversion programs.

See www.cfcinsights.com for more information.

The next post on the future freighter fleet will explore the aircraft types that CFC believes will be the most popular going forward.

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