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.