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Boeing Sees Global Air Travel at Pre-Pandemic Levels by 2024

The manufacturer predicts domestic travel will rebound next year and regional markets in 2023

Global aviation will return to its pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to Boeing’s annual long-term demand forecast. The aircraft manufacturer predicts demand for domestic air travel will lead the recovery in 2022, followed by a rebound in intra-regional markets by 2023. Finally international travel will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is of critical importance in the “near-term recovery of passenger air travel,” noting that air travel is showing rapid recovery in countries with higher vaccination rates.

Boeing’s long-term demand forecast sees passenger traffic growth increasing by an average of 4 percent per year, unchanged from last year.

The forecast for aircraft deliveries over the next 20 years has increased by 500 from the previous forecast a year ago. The manufacturer is predicting that 43,610 new airplanes will be needed by 2040, valued at $7.2 trillion. In all, the global commercial fleet will surpass 49,000 airplanes by 2040, with China, Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific countries each accounting for about 20 percent of new deliveries.

Boeing says the demand for twin-aisle models has increased slightly compared to 2020 but remains down 8 percent from 2019. Carriers are expected to need 7,670 widebody airplanes by 2040 to “support fleet renewal and long-term passenger and air cargo demand growth in longer-haul markets.”

Despite having already conducted its first successful test flights, Boeing’s 777X, a larger version of its popular widebody 777, is being delayed until late 2023, pushing the jetliner’s entry into service three years behind schedule.

However the widebody market has been hard hit by the pandemic-induced slowdown of international travel and the resulting global travel restrictions forcing airline customers to postpone deliveries on large twin-aisle jetliners. So the 777X may be rolled out just in time for a recovery in that market segment.

The 20-year demand for single-aisle jets is similar to Boeing’s pre-pandemic prediction of 32,660 deliveries in the next two decades.

Boeing’s outlook for single-aisle aircraft has brightened considerably, as more airlines add orders for the 737 Max. After having been grounded for the better part of two years, Boeing took a serious hit as airlines dropped more than 560 net commitments for the next generation aircraft.

However the jetliner returned to operations in December 2020. Since then, the airframe manufacturer has added 524 new orders, making up for most of the lost years.

“The aerospace industry has made important progress in the recovery, and Boeing’s 2021 forecast reflects our confidence in the resilience of the market,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “While we remain realistic about ongoing challenges, the past year has shown that passenger traffic rebounds swiftly when the flying public and governments have confidence in health and safety during air travel.”