Airbus Forecasts Doubling of World’s Airliner Fleet in 20 years

 - September 28, 2009, 12:50 PM

Notwithstanding the continued gloomy financial projections for the air transport industry by groups such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airbus predicts the size of the world’s airliner fleet will more than double over the next 20 years, from around 14,000 now to 28,100 in 2028, according to European manufacturer’s new Global Market Forecast published in London on September 17. Simultaneously, larger aircraft and longer sectors will result in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increasing by about 150 percent, according to the report.

Factors that will drive growth, according chief operating officer for customers John Leahy, will include expanding hubs in the Middle East, more low-cost carriers (LCCs) in Asia, greater potential for Asian and African deregulation and continuing urbanization. Deregulation, economic growth, population expansion and inter-regional trade will propel markets in Africa and Asia, he added.

The growth will generate requirements for approximately 24,950 new aircraft, including 17,000 single-aisle units, 4,230 small and 2,000 intermediate twin-aisles, and 1,720 very-large twin-aisles airliners nominally valued at $3.1 trillion.

Compared with the previous equivalent Airbus document (covering 2007-2026–the company issued no forecast for 2008-2027), the overall 20-year requirement for new aircraft has grown by 2.84 percent, most of which comes from the twin-aisle market, the new forecast for which shows an expansion of  5 percent compared with last year’s projection. Deliveries of new single-aisle and very-large airplanes exceed previous predictions by 2.15 percent and 1.82 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Airbus’s nominal catalogue-price value of the forecast deliveries has grown by about 10 percent.

In contrast, a similar publication produced by U.S. competitor Boeing appears to make more allowance for low growth in the short-term, and a particularly significant fall in demand for airplanes in the class of the 747 and larger. Including regional jets (which Airbus does not cover), Boeing sees a $3.2 trillion market for 29,000 machines–a 1.4-percent reduction on the 29,400 units predicted a year earlier. The manufacturer believes requirements will include 19,460 single-aisle aircraft (up 2.1 percent on 2008), 6,700 twin-aisles (-0.75 percent, compared with Airbus forecast growth of 5 percent), 740 “large” machines (-24.5 percent), and 2,100 RJs (-16.33 percent). 

Asked about the prospective impact of a Chinese airliner on the Airbus’s market share by 2015, Leahy did not appear unduly concerned. He accepted that in 20 years “[we] will have competition,” but he warned that establishing a significant presence in the commercial airliner market would not happen quickly or easily: it took Airbus until 1995 to achieve 18 percent of the market. “China is very conservative; it will take time,” he said.