Singapore Air Show

Airbus: Asia/Pacific To Lead 20-year Air-travel Growth

 - January 13, 2020, 11:27 AM

For Singapore Airlines and other Asia/Pacific operators, Europe, the Middle East, and North America are the most significant markets, with 32 percent, 29 percent, and 32 percent market shares, respectively, says Airbus (Chalet CD23-35). Indeed, Asia/Pacific will lead world growth as traffic triples over the next 20 years.

Commercial operations from the region will include 10 of the biggest airline-traffic flows, according to the manufacturer's latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), which predicts an even-larger 220-percent increase for China's domestic market. At 12 percent per annum over the past 20 years, traffic (revenue passenger-miles [RPMs]) to the Middle East has grown the fastest.

Airbus analysts project 2019-38 global demand for 39,210 new passenger and cargo aircraft (with capacity for 100 plus occupants, or more than 10,000kg/2,205-pounds of freight) as traffic expands annually by 4.3 percent. Here in Asia/Pacific, the manufacturer perceives requirements for 16,325 aircraft, of which almost 80 percent will be "small."

Some 14,210 (36 percent) deliveries will replace current equipment, 25,000 (64 percent) will provide growth, as 8,470 aircraft continue in service. About 42 percent of deliveries will be to this region, followed by Europe and North America, with 36 percent each.

The GMF sees the area continuing to lead global growth, with "real" gross domestic product (GDP) compound annual growth average of 4.1 percent, a recent modest "slowdown," notwithstanding. This region has seen significant GDP expansion during the past half-century, points out Airbus.

Asia/Pacific saw a 21 percent increase during the 1970s and a 54-percent gain since 2010. "Although India is outpacing China in economic growth, Asia/Pacific remains linked to China and its transition to a service/domestic consumption-based economy."

China will continue to increase its participation in the region's industry, its economic transition to services leading both domestic and regional growth— "particularly private consumption," says the GMF. "Concerns over slowing Chinese economic growth have eased recently, but trade tensions with the USA are a downside risk at least in the short term." Also seen as contributing to traffic growth will be emerging manufacturing hubs such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

Economic Factors

Accompanying burgeoning Asia/Pacific wealth has been its growing air-transport importance. The region's share of global capacity (available seat-miles [ASMs]) has expanded from 23 percent in 2000 at an annual average of 6.5 percent. Airbus says this has been "significantly faster than [in] Europe and North America," and has made Asia/Pacific the leading region and focus for "a third of all air-travel capacity."

The forecast, which highlights the socio-economic importance of "middle-class" traffic, notes that the global growth of this sector is most impressive in the speed of transition, size of its share, and the sheer volume of traffic. "In 2008, 32 percent—or 1.2 billion [people]—in Asia/Pacific could be considered middle class," said Airbus. "By 2018, this had grown to nearly 50 percent, or two billion, and by 2038, this is projected to grow still further to 72 percent, or 3.3 billion people."

The importance of both domestic travel and intra-regional international traffic has risen since 2000, say the analysts. Meanwhile, the past 20 years have seen local traffic increase from 22 percent to 33 percent and, alongside other (unspecified) air travel, to account for "nearly 60 percent of all Asia/Pacific traffic."

Domestic traffic is not evenly distributed within Asia/Pacific, according to the forecast. Rather, it has become increasingly concentrated, with more than 90 percent now accommodated within only five countries: China (with 57 percent), India (11 percent), Japan (9 percent), Indonesia (8 percent), and Australia (6 percent).

For their part, China and India have grown at "impressive" annual rates since 2000: 12.4 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively, according to the manufacturer. Nevertheless, the other three nations have each seen "very strong" growth rates when compared with overall global trends.

This local concentration of domestic travel does not read across, however, into intra-regional traffic in Asia/Pacific, where the GMF portrays a "quite different [picture] with a much more fragmented market." Airbus says that without looking at market data, it would have been "hard to guess that the largest [traffic] flow [was] between China and Thailand, for example." Most recently, that particular market has represented 6 percent of intra-Asia/Pacific capacity, with travel between Australia and Singapore providing a further 4 percent market share.

As in other regions, the opening of new internal routes has stimulated growth in the intra-Asia/Pacific market (which Airbus describes as "highly fragmented"). A difference it highlights is that while low-cost carriers (LCCs) have played an important part here, a greater role in market development has been performed by other players than in other regions, such as Europe.

"In 2018, Asia/Pacific airlines opened more new operations within their region than [did carriers in] any other." Domestic and intra-regional Asia/Pacific markets also have been stimulated by the introduction of new "city-pair" routes, including a "significant portion" by LCCs, which concludes the manufacturer's 20-year forecast.