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Boeing cargo aircraft demand nosedives

Demand wilting as China’s economy cools and Europe’s debt crisis deepens

Gulf News

Dallas: Boeing posted its best year for jet-freighter orders in 2011, with 79 planes valued at $19.5 billion (Dh71 billion).

A repeat performance, however, looks out of the question.

The world’s largest maker of cargo aircraft hadn’t logged a new freighter deal in 2012 till date, a dry spell that matches the worst start to a year for such purchases since 2009.

Boeing’s tally in the same period in 2011 was 13 cargo planes whose catalog prices totalled $3.75 billion.

Freighter demand is wilting along with global air shipments as China’s economy cools and Europe’s debt crisis deepens.

Those pressures on cargo carriers are erasing any chance for Boeing to approach 2011’s freighter deals, said Ken Herbert, a Wedbush Securities analyst in San Francisco. “I’m not expecting a very good year,” Herbert said in an interview.

“Freight traffic is still bouncing along the bottom and slow to come back.”

International air-cargo shipments fell 2.5 per cent worldwide through April, even as industry-wide capacity grew 1.8 per cent, the International Air Transport Association trade group said.

Europe’s cargo traffic slid 4.6 per cent, while the Asia-Pacific region declined 4.4 per cent.

“It certainly hasn’t helped sales of our freighter airplanes,” Tom Crabtree, regional director of cargo marketing for Boeing, said.

“Most certainly it’s in the mind of a lot of our customers and how they map out their near-term expansion plans.”

Cargo-only aircraft handle about 60 per cent of global air-freight shipments, while passenger planes fly the rest in their bellies, Crabtree said.

Boeing has about 90 per cent of the market for new freighters, dominating Airbus, the world’s biggest commercial-plane maker.

While airlines typically get discounts, retail prices for the wide-body models that Boeing sells as freighters still can triple those of the single-aisle 737 passenger jets that made up the bulk of the planemaker’s 921 gross orders in 2011.

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