Boeing raises 20-year forecast for China aircraft demand despite pandemic

Chinese airlines will need 8,600 new airplanes through 2039, 6.3 percent higher than Boeing's previous prediction of 8,090 planes last year.

Boeing on Thursday raised its rolling forecast for China’s aircraft demand for the next 20 years, making the country a bright spot in the aviation market even as COVID-19 decimates global deliveries over the next few years.

Chinese airlines will need 8,600 new airplanes through 2039, 6.3 percent higher than Boeing’s previous prediction of 8,090 planes last year. Those would be worth US$1.4 trillion based on list prices, the US planemaker said in a statement.

In October, Boeing cut its 20-year forecast for global airplane demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “While COVID-19 has severely impacted every passenger market worldwide, China’s fundamental growth drivers remain resilient and robust,” said Richard Wynne, managing director, China Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

“Not only has China’s recovery from COVID-19 outpaced the rest of the world, but also continued government investments toward improving and expanding its transportation infrastructure, large regional traffic flows, and a flourishing domestic market mean this region of the world will thrive,” Wynne said.

China’s domestic aviation market has rebounded to pre-COVID levels but as international travel remains effectively shut down, Chinese airlines have been pushing back deliveries.

Boeing predicted annual passenger traffic in China will rise 5.5 percent over the next 20 years, with the country having accounted for around a quarter of all aviation growth worldwide in the past decade.

It has been a difficult year for Boeing, which reported another quarterly loss in October, and said it will look to cut its workforce to 130,000 by the end of 2021, from 160,000 before the disease hit.

Chinese regulator has declined to lay out a timeline for the return of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX even though the United States is expected to approve its return to the skies as early as next week.

Boeing projected a need for 6,450 new single-aisle airplanes over the next 20 years, while China’s widebody fleet will require 1,590 new planes.

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