The Asia-Pacific freighter aircraft market is projected to register a CAGR of over 3% during the forecast period.
- Air cargo is a trade facilitator that contributes to global economic development by delivering high-quality products at competitive prices to consumers throughout Asia-Pacific.
- The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic created a capacity crunch for intra-Asia air cargo, and the associated freight rates forced airlines to consider using passenger aircraft for cargo-only services, thereby enhancing the aftermarket conversion prospects for the market.
Key Market Trends
Rapid Growth of Air Cargo in Asia-Pacific
The Asia-Pacific is often dubbed as the “factory of the world”. It generates around 33% of the global air cargo each year. In 2019, Boeing estimated that the region will have around 340 new freighter deliveries by 2039, accounting for almost a third of the global freighter deliveries. Even Airbus enhanced its forecast for freighter requirement in the region, to over 850 newly built deliveries over the next two decades. The demand and profitability associated with freight operations in the area are driving the number of conversions of passenger aircraft to the freighter configuration. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic encouraged several airlines to temporarily modify their passenger aircraft for freight transport. On this note, in June 2020, Fiji Airways converted one ATR 72-600 into a freighter configuration for cargo operations. While a normal passenger ATR72-600 can carry only 1.7 metric ton of cargo, its freighter converted variant has a carriage capacity of up to 8 metric ton, making it ideal for the Pacific Island countries, given the demand and operating conditions in the region. In May 2020, Air Astana established a freight division, named Air Astana Cargo, which will use three B767-300ERs retired from the airline’s fleet and modified for cargo transport.
Southeast Asian Countries Expected to Witness the Highest Growth During the Forecast Period
Airfreight is always driven by consumer wealth and confidence, which stimulates the demand for higher-value commodities transported as air cargo. Hence, the relative growth of consumer wealth in China and Hong Kong fueled inbound e-commerce. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s Pudong Airport Cargo Terminal facilitates the movement of 65,000 metric ton of international cargo, while the total outbound cargo from the terminal is around 90,000 metric ton. The tax-free port status of Hong Kong rendered it to be ideal for establishing regional fulfillment centers. Thus, cargo movement in the region is driven by the movement of manufacturing capacity away from China to other countries in Southeast Asia. The main products carried by air freight within the Asia-Pacific are high-tech manufactured goods. However, the advent and rapid growth of the e-commerce industry in the region also resulted in a subsequent increase in perishables, automotive, chemical, and fashion products being transported as air cargo. Hence, most freighter companies are developing their network to adapt to the changing dynamics in the region. In response to the situation, Taipei-based air freight forwarder, Dimerco, developed a network of cross-border road feeder services to hubs, including Shenzhen, Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore, and Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Johor Bahru in Malaysia.
The Asia-Pacific freighter aircraft market is fragmented, with several players striving to enhance their market share. These players include aircraft OEMs, third-party contractors or independent companies that enter into cooperation agreements with the OEM, and third-party contractors that develop their conversion solutions independently. Some of the prominent players in the market are The Boeing Company, Airbus SE, and ATR, which provide OEM-built freighter aircraft. With regional airlines converting a part of their fleet to the freighter configuration, new freighter aftermarket players are entering the mainstream market. For instance, in July 2017, PEMCO World Air Services, a division of Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group, collaborated with China-based MRO service provider, Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company Limited (GAMECO), for passenger-to-freighter conversions of B737-700, -400, and -300, in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, in February 2018, China Southern Airlines entered an agreement with the Boeing Company to set up a B737NG passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion production line in Guangzhou, China.
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