Christopher Emerson, senior vice president of Airbus and head of product strategy and market forecast said that the number of aviation mega-cities will more than double in the next 20 years. This will require as much configurability in aircraft as possible, particularly between major city pairs, and he said that Airbus’s widebody family–the A380, the A350XWB and the A330–are the ideal match for long-haul trunk routes, long-haul developing routes and regional routes, respectively. “For us, our family completely matches the market,” Emerson said. “There is no gap.”
Emerson divided the global passenger market into three types. First, he said, there are 42 aviation mega-cities around the world dealing with around 50 percent of long-haul traffic. Next are the thinner long-haul routes, which are destined to grow to mega-city status in the future. Finally, there are dense short-haul routes constrained by infrastructure. He said the number of hubs (cities dealing with more than 50,000 long-haul passengers a year) will grow in 20 years to a total of 89, carrying 75 percent of global long-haul flights.
He said the Airbus product range is the ideal fit for the growing global market, which is now 10 times the size of the business when the Boeing 747 was introduced. The A380 is ideal to serve mega-cities, the A350 XWB is optimal for the emerging routes and the A330 is just right for regional routes, he explained.
“Last year there were three billion passengers globally. Today, these are distributed around 50/50 between the U.S., Europe and Japan and emerging markets. As you evolve into very mature and complex networks, and I am talking about long-haul aviation, what happens is the preference of the passenger evolves.”
He indicated that the four-class configurations being employed by airlines like British Airways and Singapore Airlines had allowed Airbus to offer better product segmentation. “You need to match these products to a highly diversified market. You try to put a three-class layout on one floor at 80 meters [in length] and you are likely to get under 300 seats; you get 250 seats. With 400 seats, you can get in effect six or seven classes.”
Emerson said there are 900 city-pairs that constitute secondary “long-haul non-domestic routes. These destinations start off being stimulated by some type of activity. Some type of economic pull is creating a secondary route,” he said. “The A330 is one ton lighter than the Boeing 787. The A330 is the lowest regional cost-per-seat aircraft. It relieves saturation at airports.”
In the Middle East, as of October, Airbus had delivered 38 A380s to Emirates and it has 110 orders from three customers, including Emirates’ original order for 90, Etihad with 10 and Qatar Airways 10. Airbus has 184 firm orders for the A350XWB from four customers: Emirates with 70; Qatar Airways, 80; Yemenia, 10; and lessor Alafco, 12. Airbus said that 119 A330 family aircraft are in operation today in the region, with Etihad having four orders for the A330-200F.