BEIJING, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) raised its forecast slightly on Thursday for China's aircraft demand for the next 20 years, betting on the country's quick rebound from COVID-19 and future growth in its budget airline sector and e-commerce.
Chinese airlines will need 8,700 new airplanes through 2040, 1.2% higher than its previous prediction of 8,600 planes made last year. Those would be worth $1.47 trillion based on list prices, the U.S. planemaker said in a statement.
The 1.2% increase contrasted with the 6.3% growth Boeing forecast last year, which made China a bright spot in the aviation market at the height of coronavirus lockdowns worldwide.
Earlier this month, Boeing revised up long-term forecasts for global airplane demand on the back of a strong recovery in commercial air travel in domestic markets like the United States.
"There are promising opportunities to significantly expand international long-haul routes and air freight capacity," said Richard Wynne, managing director of China marketing at Boeing's commercial arm.
"Longer-term, there is the potential for low-cost carrier growth to further build on single-aisle demand."
China's domestic aviation market, although still vulnerable to sporadic local COVID-19 outbreaks, has more or less rebounded to pre-COVID levels, but the country's borders remain virtually closed, with the number of international flights only 2% of pre-COVID levels.
Boeing projected a need for nearly 6,500 new single-aisle airplanes over the next 20 years, while China's widebody fleet, including passenger and cargo models, will require 1,850 new planes, accounting for 20% of total deliveries.
Air freight market has become a bright spot for Boeing in China as e-commerce demand booms, even as the U.S. planemaker struggles with sales of passenger jets due to trade tensions and the grounding of its 737 MAX.
China's aviation authority, the first regulator to ground 737 MAX following two deadly crashes, has yet to approve the return of service for the aircraft in the country. China accounts for a quarter of Boeing's orders of all aircraft.
China will also need nearly $1.8 trillion worth of commercial services for its aircraft fleet over the 20-year period, company said.
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