Mature Fleet Replacement and New Markets Drive Airbus Forecast Higher
Airliner fleet replacement in mature markets, along with dynamic growth in emerging economies and strong continued business in established North American and European economies, are the principal factors driving 20-year requirements for new equipment. Other drivers are increased global urbanization, middle-class wealth and market deregulation and continued growth among low-cost carriers, according to the latest global market forecast from Airbus.
Against this background, the Airbus 2011-2030 forecast, released on September 19, predicts demand for more than 27,800 new airliners nominally worth $3.5 trillion. The total comprises 26,900-plus passenger aircraft (with 100-plus seats) and 900-plus new-built freighters, and compares with last year’s forecast of 20-year requirements for 24,980 passenger aircraft and 870 new freighters.
The world economy has entered a period of “sustained growth,” claims Airbus. Although a better-than-expected 4-percent increase in global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 is now slowing, Airbus analysts believe growth in 2012 could remain close to the 3 to 4 percent that had been predicted for next year during the worldwide financial crisis of 2008-2009.
Last year saw increased airline capacity (available seat-miles) far outstripping GDP growth, says Airbus. Compared with those economic trends, capacity increases that began in 2010 at a similar 4-percent level climbed inexorably to exceed 8 percent before falling back to about 7.5 percent by year-end. The decline has continued in 2011, but by August capacity remained above 6 percent–against a year-on-year economic growth that had fallen to about 3.5 percent.
Nevertheless, Airbus predicts that in today's “two-speed world” emerging economies will maintain forecast growth patterns of 6 percent annually through the next three years, compared with 2 to 3 percent for mature countries. Faring least well is the U.S., where Airbus cites 2.1-percent growth in mid-2011 against 5.2 percent in Western Europe and 10.2 percent among emerging economies.
The European OEM concludes that global travel has proved resilient to external shocks: despite negative passenger reaction to the 2001 U.S. terrorist attacks, severe acute-respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the global financial crisis, commercial traffic (revenue passenger-miles) grew by 45 percent in the past 10 years. Further encouragement for airlines comes from relative stability in jet-fuel demand that ended 2010 at around 3 percent higher than in 2000. Nonetheless, with forecasts that average oil prices will swell to $120 per barrel during this decade and remain there before increasing during the 2025-2030 timeframe is seen as a major factor driving carriers’ demand for ever-more-efficient aircraft.