Freighter aircraft demand grown by over 45,000 in December 2020, IBA sees sustained growth

According to aviation industry consultant IBA, demand for freighter aircraft continues to grow strongly as a result of Covid-19, but values and lease rates remain suppressed by an oversupply of feedstock aircraft. The data from IBA’s InsightIQ platform indicates that since May 2020, almost 200 narrow-body and wide-body aircraft have joined the worldwide freighter fleet. The active fleet of narrow-body freighters has grown by 61 to 625 aircraft with newly converted Boeing 737-800s accounting for around half that growth. The Boeing 757-200 remains the pre-eminent freighter aircraft with a fleet of 298 aircraft (converted and factory delivered), followed by the Boeing 737-400 with 148.
The active mid-size wide-body freighter fleet has grown more steeply in the same period by 80 to 624 aircraft. The Boeing 767-300ER is the dominant aircraft in this segment, both accounting for more than half the growth as many ex-passenger aircraft and converted, and in total fleet size which now stands at 315 aircraft when one adds converted and factory delivered aircraft. The A330 freighter fleet is also growing strongly but from a much lower base, with 6 aircraft converted during this period, but with an additional pool of aircraft taking its fleet size to 74.
The large wide-body freighter fleet has grown by 55 to 601 aircraft since May 2020. The re-entry into service from storage of 29 Boeing 747-400s and 7 MD-11Fs accounted for around half the growth, with the remainder made up of factory deliveries of 22 Boeing 777Fs and 3 747-8Fs.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, freighter aircraft usage has grown strongly, driven by the fall in belly hold capacity as passenger aircraft were grounded. The number of freighter aircraft flights, which was averaging around 100,000 per month before the pandemic, has grown, peaking at over 145,000 in December 2020 as the holiday period drove supply chain demand. Conversely, passenger aircraft utilisation fell from over 2.9 million flights in January 2020 fell to 556,000 in April 2020, and since then has only partially recovered to around 1.5 million flights in January 2021.
Data from IBA’s InsightIQ platform also demonstrates the dominance of certain aircraft types in the passenger to freighter conversion market.