The worldwide freighter fleet will almost double in the next 20 years, Airbus predicts in its Cargo Global Market Forecast.
Global airfreight traffic will grow by an average of 4.8 percent annually over the next 20 years, so the freighter fleet will increase to 3,000 aircraft.
This projected growth is driven by positive global trends in economic activity, including world trade, private consumption and industrial production.
The forecast shows that the overall worldwide air cargo demand by the year 2032 will require around 2,700 new and converted aircraft. More than half of these will be needed for fleet replacement – driven by old aircraft retirements – with the remainder being for growth.
Of these 2,700 aircraft, 870 will be factory-built freighters. A further 175 in 2032 will be aircraft that are already in service as freighters today.
Belly freight usage in passenger aircraft will remain largely unchanged at around half of commercial airfreight on international traffic.
“Looking forward after a difficult few years, world trade is showing improvements and diverse emerging markets will call for increased flexibility in air cargo transportation – for which midsize freighters will be the primary means to achieve this,” Andreas Hermann, Airbus’ vice president, head of freighters, says. “This is why Airbus forecasts that the core of future freighter requirements will be in the midsize category, where modern-technology freighters will play a large part in future fleet replacement and long term growth.”
Emerging economies are the fastest-growing markets for air cargo. Asia-Pacific represents 36 percent of world freight traffic, increasing to 42 percent by 2032. Overall, China is the single largest individual nation driving air cargo growth. China’s share represents 15 percent, and by 2032 this will rise to around 22 percent of the global airfreight market.
By comparison, the combined developed nations’ share in Europe/CIS and North America accounted for 51 percent of the total traffic in 2012, and although traffic will continue to grow, by 2032 their combined share of total world freight traffic will reduce slightly, to around 45 percent.
Small freighters account for about 23 percent of the fleet today and although the express freight market boom in China and India will boost the number of small freighters from 380 in 2012 to more than 600 aircraft by 2032, their overall proportion of the world fleet will decrease slightly, to around 21 percent.
Midsize freighters represent about 45 percent of the fleet in service and are increasingly used for regional express services and regional and long-haul general cargo operations. Their numbers are expected to boom in the coming years driven by growth in emerging markets, especially in China. The midsize segment is expected to grow to more than 1,290 units by 2032, up from 744 units at the end of 2012. In doing so, this category will retain its dominant 45-percent share of the world freighter fleet.
Large freighters represent about 32 percent of the fleet and are mainly used on long-haul operations between three main markets: the U.S., Europe and Asia. The fleet of large aircraft will reach more than 1,000 aircraft by 2032, slightly increasing its share of the world freighter fleet.