Boeing raises 20-yr forecast for China aircraft demand despite pandemic

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Boeing Co on Thursday raised its rolling forecast for China's aircraft demand for the next 20 years, making the country a bright spot in the aviation market even as COVID-19 decimates global deliveries over the next few years.

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Chinese airlines will need 8,600 new airplanes through 2039, 6.3% higher than Boeing's previous prediction of 8,090 planes last year. Those would be worth $1.4 trillion based on list prices, the U.S. planemaker said in a statement.

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In October, Boeing cut its 20-year forecast for global airplane demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While COVID-19 has severely impacted every passenger market worldwide, China's fundamental growth drivers remain resilient and robust," said Richard Wynne, managing director, China Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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"Not only has China's recovery from COVID-19 outpaced the rest of the world, but also continued government investments toward improving and expanding its transportation infrastructure, large regional traffic flows, and a flourishing domestic market mean this region of the world will thrive.”

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China's domestic aviation market has rebounded to pre-COVID levels, but as international travel remains effectively shut down, Chinese airlines have been pushing back deliveries.

Boeing and its European rival, Airbus SE, have been jostling to increase market share in China, but they also face rising competition from state-owned planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

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COMAC has been steadily delivering its regional ARJ21 to customers throughout the pandemic and its narrowbody C919, which is still in flight testing phase, is expected to obtain an airworthiness certificate from China's aviation regulator next year.

The regulator has declined to lay out a timeline for the return of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX even though the United States is expected to approve its return to the skies as early as next week.

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Boeing projected a need for 6,450 new single-aisle airplanes over the next 20 years, while China's widebody fleet will require 1,590 new planes, accounting for 18% of the total deliveries, which fell from a year ago due to anticipation of a slower recovery in global long-haul traffic.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Kim Coghill & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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