Boeing raises forecast for aircraft demand amid Covid-19 recovery

US plane maker forecasts 43,610 commercial jet deliveries in the next 20 years

Boeing says it is optimistic about long-term demand for planes, forecasting the aerospace market to be worth $9 trillion over the next decade. Photo: AP
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Boeing has raised its 20-year forecast for commercial aeroplane demand, citing signs of recovery from the pandemic.

The US plane maker forecast demand for 43,610 new planes valued at $7.2 trillion by 2040, an increase of about 500 planes over last year’s forecast, it said in its market outlook on Tuesday.

“As our industry recovers and continues to adapt to meet new global needs, we remain confident in long-term growth for aerospace,” Marc Allen, Boeing’s chief strategy officer, said.

“We are encouraged by the fact that scientists have delivered vaccines more rapidly than imaginable and that passengers are demonstrating strong confidence in airplane travel.”

Covid-19 hammered the aviation industry last year, but domestic travel is leading the rebound, and international travel should return to pre-crisis levels by 2024.

The brighter outlook came as the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer, which is in a long-standing rivalry with Toulouse-based Airbus, grapples with production problems and ensuing delivery delays on its 787 Dreamliner and lingering concerns from its 737 Max crisis.

Boeing’s latest 20-year forecast is down from that of 2019, which was 44,040.

In its shorter 10-year forecast, it said it expects global demand for 19,000 commercial planes valued at $3.2tn through 2030, higher than last year’s projection of 18,350 planes worth $2.9tn.

This global demand will contribute to a $9tn market over the next decade for aerospace products and services that Boeing addresses. This is 5.9 per cent higher than the $8.5tn addressable market that the company forecast a year ago at the height of the pandemic, and up from $8.7tn in the pre-crisis 2019 forecast.

“The aerospace industry has made important progress in the recovery and Boeing’s 2021 forecast reflects our confidence in the resilience of the market,” Stan Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said.

“While we remain realistic about ongoing challenges, the past year has shown that passenger traffic rebounds swiftly when the flying public and governments have confidence in health and safety during air travel.”

Boeing expects domestic air travel to lead the recovery and return to pre-crisis levels in 2022. Intra-regional markets are expected to follow as health and travel restrictions ease, followed by long-haul travel’s return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023 to 2024, it said.

“The updated outlook shows that the aviation industry has made important progress towards recovery as vaccination roll-outs progress around the world,” Boeing said in its outlook.

“It also highlights our confidence in the industry’s resilience, highlighted by the rapid domestic traffic recovery in many regions since the beginning of the year.”

Global passenger traffic is projected to increase by an average of 4 per cent every year through 2040, unchanged from last year’s forecast. South Asia is set to record the biggest growth, 6.9 per cent annually.

For single-aisle jets, like the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 family, the US company anticipates demand for more than 32,500 narrow-body planes by 2040. These models will account for 75 per cent of deliveries in the 20-year forecast.

Airlines will need more than 7,500 new wide-body airplanes in the next 20 years to renew their fleet and to meet long-term passenger and air cargo demand growth in longer-haul markets, Boeing said. These projections are up slightly compared with 2020 but remain 8 per cent lower than 2019.

Boeing also cut its 20-year forecast for freighter demand to 890 jets from the 930 planes it projected a year ago.

To drive the recovery, long-term demand for newly qualified aviation workers remains strong, with projected demand for more than 2.1 million people needed to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet in the next 20 years, Boeing said. This includes 612,000 pilots, 626,000 maintenance technicians and 886,000 cabin crew members.

While commercial planes and services are showing signs of recovery, the global defence, space and government services markets have remained stable.

The defence and space market will remain flat compared with last year’s forecast, at $2.6tn, during the next decade, Boeing said.

Updated: September 14, 2021, 3:17 PM