A Surge in Demand for Air Cargo

Issue: 1 / 2022

Over the past three years, Boeing has fallen well behind Airbus in orders and deliveries of passenger airliners, yet remains the king of the airfreight world. Of the over 2,000 commercial freighters flying today, planes that have played an outsized role in delivering goods during the pandemic — more than 90 per cent are Boeing jets. The COVID-19 pandemic has slashed the number of international passenger flights which typically carried large amounts of freight in their cargo holds. Meanwhile, express home delivery of packages within days of ordering has grown rapidly in the pandemic. Amazon is flying a large fleet of wide body cargo planes — used Boeing 767 passenger planes converted to freighters. As the supply of used 767 passenger jets tightens, it is now looking for used Airbus A330s to convert. Prices and profits for airfreight carriers have risen so much that Fehrm said “today you can fly an Airbus A330 passenger plane half empty and still make money on the freight carried below the passenger floor.” Reflecting the urgent demand for more air freighter jets, both new-build models and converted passenger planes, IATA released data this month showing the cargo carried globally by air last year was seven percent higher than in pre-pandemic 2019. With deliveries of Boeing’s large passenger jet stalled, deliveries of air cargo jets have provided it much-needed cash. During the past three decades, Boeing has on average each year delivered 23 widebody freighters. Last year, it delivered 41. In addition Boeing booked 81 orders for new freighters in 2021, the best year on record.