Boeing says commercial airplane demand will keep rising

By Dan Catchpole
Everett Herald writer

Boeing says it sees the already historically high demand for commercial airplanes only going up over the next 20 years.

Its latest market forecast, released Thursday, projects demand for 38,050 new airplanes through 2034, a 3.5 percent increase over last year’s projections. Those new airplanes are worth an estimated $5.6 trillion.

The outlook projects market trends from 2014 through 2034. It does not predict year-to-year fluctuations but rather the average trend over 20 years.

Single-aisle airplanes continue to be the fastest-growing, largest overall segment. In the twin-aisle jetliner segment, customers are expected to increasingly prefer efficient, twin-engine jetliners over four-engine jumbo and superjumbo aircraft.

About 58 percent of the new airplanes will accommodate growth in passenger air service. The remaining 42 percent is from replacing old airplanes, according to the forecast.

Passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.9 percent, just below the historic trend of 5 percent. The forecast expects cargo traffic to grow 4.7 percent a year.

In the past 20 years, air travel has rapidly expanded and air carriers have responded by flying more often and more direct flights. So the average airplane size is actually slightly smaller now than in 1995, according to Boeing’s market outlook.

Looking forward, single-aisle airplanes will continue to make up the bulk of demand for new airplanes, requiring an estimated 26,730 new airplanes by 2034.

Low-cost carriers are expected to make up 35 percent of the single-aisle market. Airlines in developing and emerging markets are another major factor for projected single-aisle growth, according to Boeing’s market outlook.

Boeing and European rival Airbus Group have been battling fiercely over the single-aisle market for 20 years. Both are updating their products in the next few years. Airbus is adding the A320neo and Boeing is rolling out the 737 MAX series.

Other competitors, especially China’s COMAC, are trying to break the Airbus and Boeing duopoly.

Boeing sees demand for 8,830 new twin-aisle jetliners, most with 200 to 300 seats. Passenger carriers continue to move away from very large airplanes, such as Boeing’s 747-8 and Airbus’ A380, according to the report.

About 920 new freighters will be needed by 2034, according to Boeing’s forecast.

“We’ve seen two years of solid growth in the air cargo market and we expect that growth to continue,” said Randy Tinseth, a vice president with Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Aerospace analysts are skeptical that there is enough demand for the 747-8 freighter to keep that line running much longer. Boeing, however, remains publicly upbeat about the line’s future.

Boeing also expects to keep making a classic 777 freighter for several years after it stops making the passenger version, which will be replaced by the 777X.

The company plans to keep making the 767 freighter, even while that line will mostly be dedicated to making aerial-refueling tankers based on that model for the U.S. Air Force. Boeing has improved the airplane’s performance, according to a report from Flight Global.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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