Oleg Sergeev: World and Middle East Air Freight Growth Forecast

The pandemic has changed the world, affecting all industries. Aviation was among the most affected. Airlines suffer colossal losses due to forced downtime associated with the closure of air borders.

Until now, air traffic between the countries is limited. Of course, as an expert in the field of air cargo transportation, I am interested in what business can expect from this year and the next.

I'll start with forecasts for the cargo aircraft market from the Boeing Corporation. The American manufacturer is quite confident in the future. In a new analyst report for 2020, the world's largest aviation giant predicted double growth in global air freight over the next 20 years and a 60% increase in demand for cargo aircraft. According to the calculations, the total volume of cargo transportation by air will grow by an average of 4% annually and in 2039 will reach 578 billion dollars. As a result, the fleet of cargo aircraft will grow from 2010 to 3260 units in two decades. Of course, this instills some confidence in ZetAvia, whose fleet consists of five Il-76T / TD cargo planes, which differ in ramp design and unpretentious operation from concrete and unpaved runways.

Picture of aircraft
World and Middle East Air Freight Growth Forecast

China is said to be the leader in terms of average annual growth in freight traffic, with 5.8% for domestic traffic. The second place will be taken by the internal cargo flows of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region with an increase of 4.9% per year, the third will be cargo transportation from Europe - East Asia with an increase of 4.4%.

When it comes to air cargo transportation between the Middle East and Europe over the next two decades, Boeing predicts a slowdown in growth. If from 2009 to 2019 the growth of the aviation cargo service equaled 4.8% per year, and in 2019 as much as 10.6%, then in 2020–2039, according to the corporation's calculations, growth will decrease to 2.4%. Freight traffic Africa - Europe, despite an encouraging increase in 2019 to 4% per year, in twenty years will fall to 3.3%.

According to open sources, in 2019, the share of air cargo going to the Middle East and from the region accounted for 11.2% of the global tonnage. This, you see, is a very good indicator. During the pandemic, the region continues to be dynamic in terms of import, export and transit cargo. The region's three largest cargo hubs - Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha - are expanding their cargo capacity to meet the growing demand for air cargo. Dubai International Airport Al Maktoum, also known as Dubai World Central, plans to become the world's largest cargo hub, capable of handling 12 million tons of cargo.

The corporation's analysts present their calculations on cargo transportation in the region over the past ten years and the expected results until 2039. According to statistics, the total volume of air cargo traffic between the Middle East and Europe has increased by 4.8% annually over the past ten years. According to the results of 2019, cargo turnover amounted to 970,000 tons, and trade with Europe accounted for 26% of the international air cargo market in the Middle East. In the next 20 years, growth will continue, but at a slower pace. Until 2029, growth will be less than 2% per year, and in 2039 it will increase to 2.9%. The report says that the main goods sent from the Middle East region to Europe are fish, perishable products, textiles and partly light industry products.

East Asian countries accounted for 21% of the Middle East air cargo market in 2019, corresponding to a volume of 802,000 tons. Inbound goods consisted mainly of textiles, machinery, electrical and computer equipment. 2009 to 2019 imports from East Asia to the region grew by 2.3% annually. Exports of air cargo from the Middle East to East Asia accounted for 25% of total trade with the region, but has increased by 6.0% per year over the past decade.

The corporation motivates the encouraging forecasts for cargo transportation with the high dynamics of the express delivery sector in the context of the e-commerce boom, as well as the recovery of the world economy. In support of the report, there is a 14% increase in express traffic in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In addition, it is argued that airlines operating specialized cargo aircraft, which already generate up to 90% of the revenues of the air cargo industry, will benefit most.

Boeing's forecasts have already begun to be confirmed. Recently, the e-commerce giant Amazon bought 11 used Boeing 767s at once. Four purchased aircraft are already being converted from a passenger to a cargo version and will start flying in the middle of this year. Operation of the rest will begin in 2022. All aircraft purchased by the online platform will be operated under contracts with third-party carriers. Jingdong, China's second largest online retailer, has just announced plans to launch its own cargo airline and plans to operate 500 aircraft by 2045. Startups are growing in China's domestic air cargo market, where municipalities in many provinces are launching their cargo airline projects one by one in the form of public-private partnerships.

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