IATA WCS 2017: freighters going nowhere according to Boeing’s Crabtree

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Freighters are “here to stay” – Boeing Commercial Airplanes regional director and airline market analysis for marketing and business development, Tom Crabtree told delegates yesterday at the International Air Transport Association’s World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi.

He explained in a session how air cargo demand would affect the freighter market that freighters are essential to the air cargo industry and airlines operating them are generating 90 per cent of industry revenues.

These include express carriers which make up 40 per cent at $33.7 billion, combo-carriers at $33.1 billion, all-cargo carriers at $8.5 billion and belly-only carriers $8.5 billion.

Crabtree says: “This has not changed in the past decade and it is not going to change. Air cargo is a niche and a vitally important niche industry.” He says this is despite air cargo only accounting for 14 per cent of the aviation industry’s revenues.

He says many carriers like AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), and Ethiopian Cargo – 6th freedom carriers – are using their geographical location and new widebody freighter capabilities to open up new markets – using the Boeing 747-8F with a payload of 133 tonnes and the B777F with a payload of 102 tonnes.

Carriers are operating across Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, which Crabtree says is where 86 per cent of the population lives and 65 per cent of the economic activity for the world is taking place.

He says a number of airlines are pushing diverse cargo growth strategies including Silk Way West Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, ABC, Emirates, China Southern Airlines, and Cargolux.

Crabtree explains that the strongest freighter trade lanes are Europe to Asia/Far East and Asia/Far East to North America. On the Asia to Europe lane 80 per cent of cargo is carried by freighters, while on the Asia to North America lane the figure is 75 per cent, but North America to Europe is 40 per cent.

Crabtree says: “Dedicated freighters will continue to carry most of the air cargo traffic and will continue to carry above 50 per cent of traffic by 2035.” Freighters currently carry between 50-60 per cent of airfreight traffic.

Boeing forecasts that 930 new and 1,440 converted freighters will be delivered into the marketplace by 2035 of which 500 will be large production freighters, 400 widebody conversions, 380 medium wide body and 1,040 standard body.

In 2015, there were 1,770 freighters, but by 2035 there will be 3,010 and standard widebody freighters are the fastest growing. Freighters make up eight per cent of the aircraft in the world.

Crabtree says Boeing predicts air cargo will grow by 4.2 per cent a year until 2035, doubling the traffic from today.