The world’s airfreight traffic will grow by an average of 4.8 percent annually over the next 20 years, with emerging countries particularly in the Asia-Pacific to outpace developed countries in long-term traffic growth.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus in its latest “Cargo Global Market Forecast” predicts that overall worldwide air cargo demand by 2032 will expand to 2,700 aircraft. almost double the required global freighter fleet.
The demand will be driven by numerous positive global trends in economic activity, including world trade, private consumption, and industrial production, the paper said.
Over half of these nearly 3,000 aircraft will be for fleet replacement and the remainder for growth. Some 870 will be factory-built, around 1,860 will be converted from passenger aircraft, and a further 175 will be aircraft already in service as freighters today.
Emerging economies will be the fastest growing markets for air cargo, as illustrated by Asia-Pacific, which currently represents 36 percent of the world freight traffic, increasing to 42 percent by 2032.
China is the single largest country driving global air cargo growth, according to the study. Its share today represents 15 percent, rising to around 22 percent by 2032.
“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 mid-size freighters will be the primary means to achieve this,” said Andreas Hermann, Airbus’ vice president and head of the freighters unit.
Mid-size freighters, whose flexibility allows airlines to adapt to changing markets, 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.
Driven by growth in emerging markets, their numbers are expected to increase to over 1,290 units by 2032, up from 744 units at the end of 2012 to retain its dominant 45 percent share of the world freighter fleet.
Small freighters account for about 23 percent of the fleet today and will expand from 380 in 2012 to more than 600 aircraft by 2032, showing a slight decrease in their overall proportion of the world fleet to around 21 percent.
Meanwhile, large freighters represent about 32 percent of the fleet today and are mainly used on long-haul operations between U.S., Europe, and Asia. The fleet will reach over 1,000 aircraft by 2032, slightly increasing its global share.