Globalisation and rising demand for fast deliveries will mean more than 2,600 new cargo aircraft will be needed over the next 20 years, Boeing has said.
The manufacturer predicts that the amount of air cargo will double over the next two decades, driving a 75pc rise in the size of the global air freighter fleet.
2017 saw a 10.1pc rise in air freight, after years of lagging demand following the financial crisis.
This was more than double the long-term growth rate and the company now forecasts an annual rise of 4.2pc over the next 20 years.
“The air cargo market continues to be a major element of commercial aviation’s growth story,” said Darren Hulst, Boeing’s managing director of market analysis and sales support.
“Our new forecast indicates strong long-term air cargo trends, which coincide with the market recovery that we have seen over the last few years across Europe, North America, and Asia.”
According to the study, air cargo currently represents just 1pc of global trade by tonnage, but is worth 35pc of the total value at $6 trillion (£4.6 trillion) a year.
This is because items flown rather than shipped internationally tend to be high value, smaller components, often requiring quick and secure deliveries.
The study also pointed to the burgeoning global e-commerce market as a growth driver. Valued at $2.3 trillion last year, Boeing forecasts it will be worth $2.8 trillion this year with “no signs of slowing down”.
Asia – with the manufacturing powerhouse of China at its heart – is the largest e-commerce market in the world.
To cope with demand for fast international transport, Boeing expects the world freighter fleet will expand from the current level of 1,870 aircraft to 3,260.
The 980 new medium and large freighters and 1,670 converted freighters will go toward replacing older airplanes and growing the global fleet.
The company puts the value of the new air freighters at $280bn.
Dedicated air freighters – unlike most airliners that carry passengers as well as cargo in the hold – are expected to account for more than half of the world’s air cargo.
The majority will be in the large widebody freighter category, such as the 747-8 Freighter and 777 Freighters.
This article was written by Industry Editor and Alan Tovey from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.