Pandemic hasn’t dimmed Boeing’s rosy prediction for planes

FILE – The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Despite the pandemic’s damage to air travel, Boeing says it’s optimistic about long-term demand for airplanes. Boeing said Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 that it expects the aerospace market to be worth $9 trillion over the next decade. That includes planes for airlines and military uses and other aerospace products and services. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)

Boeing said Tuesday that the airline industry is showing signs of recovering from the pandemic, and it raised its bullish prediction about demand for airline and military planes and other aerospace products and services.

The company predicted that the aerospace market will be worth $9 trillion over the next decade. That is up from Boeing’s prediction of $8.5 trillion last year and $8.7 trillion in 2019, before the pandemic torpedoed demand for airline jets.

Separately, Boeing reported a small gain in new airliner orders during August, underscoring the fragile nature of the recovery in air travel. The company posted net orders for 23 commercial jets after accounting for 30 cancellations — 28 of them for the 737 Max.

As recently as 2018, Boeing booked more than 1,000 orders. That was followed, however, by two deadly Max crashes that led regulators around the world to ground the plane for nearly two years, crippling Boeing’s commercial-planes business. Since then it has also struggled with production flaws on another plane, the larger 787.

Boeing delivered 22 planes last month, trailing the 40 deliveries by European rival Airbus. Deliveries are a crucial source of cash for the companies.

Boeing officials said the last year shows that air travel can rebound quickly, which was reflected in their upbeat long-term forecast.

“We lost about two years of growth,” said Darren Hulst, Boeing vice president of commercial marketing. “However, we see recovery to pre-virus levels by the end of 2023 or early 2024.”

An average of 1.85 million passengers boarded planes in the U.S. each a day in August, up from about 700,000 per day last year. However, that was still down 23% from the 2.4 million daily average in August 2019, according to government figures.

In the U.S. and around the world, air travel within countries is picking up faster than cross-border travel, as many countries maintain high barriers to international travel. In July, global domestic travel was 84% of July 2019 levels, but international travel was only 26%, according to the International Air Transport Association, the main trade group for global airlines.

Despite the setback from the pandemic, Chicago-based Boeing’s long-term outlook is little changed from a year ago. By 2030, the company predicts that airlines will need 19,000 new planes to replace old ones and for growth fueled by increasing demand for travel, especially in Asia.

By 2040, the company forecast that the global fleet of airline planes will top 49,000, with nearly 40% of that in the Asia-Pacific region, led by China.

To fly those planes, Boeing Co. predicted the world will need 612,000 more pilots, 626,000 technicians and 886,000 flight attendants over the next 20 years.

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