An aircraft is assembled at the Airbus manufacturing plant for passenger jets in Tianjin in June.（QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES）
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has again raised its forecast for aircraft demand in China, saying that over the next 20 years, Chinese carriers are expected to acquire 9,440 new airplanes to meet expanding commercial air travel demand.
In the next two decades, China's demand will account for 23 percent of total new airplanes required globally, reflecting the country's market rebound and further evolution of its fleets following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Airbus' latest forecast released on Thursday.
"In recent years, the focus of the global aviation industry has gradually shifted eastward to China and the Middle East. By 2042, the Asian market, particularly China, India and the Middle East, will show a strong demand for air travel," said Francois Cabaret, head of global market forecast at Airbus.
China's economic fundamentals have paved the way for robust air traffic increases. After China optimized its pandemic prevention and control measures late last year and restarted quarantine-free international travel in January, demand for domestic and international travel has been on a steady track of recovery and growth.
Airbus also noted that there is no direct competition between high-speed trains and the air travel market. For instance, Japan and France both have developed high-speed train networks and are complementary to the civil aviation sector. For transportation between Beijing and Shanghai, demand for both high-speed trains and air travel is growing quickly.
As of May, the capacity of passenger flights, in terms of available seat kilometers, a measure of an airline's carrying capacity to generate revenue, for international flights globally recovered to 89 percent of the 2019 level. The domestic markets of different countries saw the number resume to 108 percent on average compared with pre-pandemic levels in May 2019, according to OAG, a UK-based provider of global travel data.
Meanwhile, demand for airfreight is growing consistently. By 2042, the global fleet size of cargo aircraft in service is likely to reach 3,230, including 920 newly manufactured planes and 1,590 freighters that are converted from passenger aircraft, Airbus projected.
"During the pandemic, the demand for air cargo rebounded strongly. In the post-pandemic era, the demand has resumed to the original range. Airbus is in discussions with logistics, air cargo and e-commerce companies for potential cooperation. We are highly optimistic about the growth potential of China's airfreight market," said Liu Li, senior vice-president of Airbus and head of commercial for Airbus China.
In May, the air cargo transportation capacity rose by 14.5 percent year-on-year globally, primarily driven by belly-hold capacity, which increased as demand in passenger flights recovered. The capacity is also above May 2019 levels before the pandemic, according to the International Air Transport Association.