World air-cargo traffic has grown so rapidly in the past 12 months that it will regain its 2007 peak by the end of 2010, the Boeing Co. projected in its latest biennial forecast, World Air Cargo Forecast 2010-2011.
The aircraft manufacturer said global cargo traffic will expand at a 5.9-percent annual rate over the next two decades, with traffic expected to triple through 2029.
Volumes rebounded strongly in November 2009 and continued to climb through the first eight months of 2010, the company said.
Boeing attributes the rebound to a pickup in industrial activity, particularly in Asia, that began in August 2009. In addition, air cargo has likely benefited from capacity constraints stemming from "overcorrection" in other transport modes, particularly containerships, Boeing said.
"Industrial requirements are driving the rebound, as air cargo is an essential tool for industry and commerce to manage supply chains and bring goods to market," said Jerry Allyne, vice president, strategic planning and analysis for Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, in a statement. "As airlines return to profitability, they will begin to consider fleet renewal to improve long-term operating costs."
Asia will continue to lead all global traffic routes, the report said. Domestic Chinese and intra-Asian markets will grow 9.2 percent and 7.9 percent per year, respectively.
Boeing said Asia-related markets will grow faster than the global average. Gains will be fueled by Chinese population and commercial expansion, strengthening fundamentals in Asian production trends, and reduced barriers to international air trade flows, according to the report.
The aircraft manufacturer projected the world's freighter fleet will increase to 2,967 airplanes from 1,755 during the 20-year period. Large freighters like the company's 777 and 747 will account for one-third of the total fleet by that time, compared to 27 percent today.
Boeing expects global freighter demand to be met by 743 new factory-built airplanes and 1,751 conversions to all-cargo configuration from passenger and passenger-freighter combination airplanes. The value of those transactions will be about $180 billion in current dollars.
The bullish projections are a far cry from the unprecedented decline suffered in late 2008 and most of 23009 as financial markets melted down and the global economy tumbled into recession. The 2008-2009 period marked the first time that air-cargo traffic contracted for two consecutive years.
Boeing has been publishing its air-cargo forecast since 1986. The most recent edition was released at the International Air Cargo Forum earlier this month in Amsterdam.