Boeing has trimmed its 20-year industrywide delivery forecast by about 2,500 aircraft in response to changing economic and industry circumstances, labour shortages and factors including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Likewise, the company has stripped roughly 2,300 aircraft from its estimate of the size of the global airliner fleet in 20-years, according to the company’s 2022 Commercial Market Outlook, released on 17 July.

Boeing now predicts demand will support delivery by manufacturers of 19,575 new aircraft (including only freighters, regional jets and single-aisle and widebody aircraft) over the next ten years, and 41,170 aircraft over 20 years.

Air France Boeing 777-300

Source: Air France

The 20-year figure is down from last year, when Boeing forecast 43,610 new-aircraft deliveries over two decades.

Reflecting its revised projections, Boeing now expects airlines globally will operate 47,080 aircraft in 2041. Boeing’s 2021 market outlook pegged the size of the fleet in 2040 at 49,405 aircraft.

Boeing’s latest projections equate to 2.8% annual fleet expansion, between 2019 – Boeing’s pre-pandemic baseline – and 2041. The 2019 fleet included 25,900 aircraft.

With the 2022 report, Boeing continues a several-year trend of revising its estimates downward. By comparison, Boeing’s 2019 outlook estimated 44,040 deliveries over 20 years, with the fleet increasing to 50,660 aircraft by 2038.

Boeing vice-president of commercial marketing Darren Hulst attributes the shift to economic factors, including financial market instability and expected slower economic growth.

Hulst says people are clamouring to travel, equating to strong demand. But supply – meaning flights and seats – remains constrained due to factors including labour shortages. Airlines globally have struggled to ramp operations following the depths of the pandemic due to lack of sufficient numbers of workers, including of pilots and ground staffers.

Hulst also cites geopolitical tensions, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as prompting Boeing’s downward delivery revisions. That war led Western countries to prohibit the sale of aircraft to Russian companies. Russian sanctions alone prompted Boeing to remove 1,540 deliveries from its 20-year forecast, says Hulst.

He clarifies that Boeing’s revised figures do not reflect anticipation of any significant economic disruption, such as major recessions. Any minor economic dip would have little impact on long-term trends because airlines are already struggling to meet demand, Hulst says.

Boeing had expected domestic air travel would have recovered “a little bit” faster than it actually has, he adds.

Air traffic has returned to about 70% 2019 levels, with domestic travel running at about 80% and international travel in the mid-60%-recovered range, according to Hulst.

He anticipates domestic air travel will return to 2019 levels in 2023, with long-haul markets hitting pre-pandemic levels in mid-to-late 2024.

The 41,170 aircraft-delivery estimate in Boeing’s 2022 20-year outlook includes 2,120 regional jets, 30,880 single-aisle aircraft, 7,230 widebodies and 940 freighters.

Compared to last year’s outlook, those figures are down about 1,800 single-aisle jets and 440 widebodies, data shows. Boeing’s freighter-delivery estimate is up by 50 units from last year’s report, partly due to strong e-commerce demand, Hulst says.

Broadly, Boeing anticipates half the aircraft delivered in the coming two decades will replace existing jets and half will be used for expansion.