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Boeing: Asia-Pac To Account for 30 Percent of Air Travel by 2038

 - January 15, 2020, 8:37 AM

Travel in Asia/Pacific, with its 60-percent share of the global population, remains a primary contributor to world aviation growth, the region's "vast geographical area (including many island nations)" generating strong demand, says Boeing's 2019-38 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO).

Subdividing the area into five (China, Northeast Asia, Oceania, South Asia, and Southeast Asia), the manufacturer forecasts that intra-regional aviation will expand to take its share of total air travel from "roughly one quarter" to more than 30 percent, the highest of any world region. "With wide-ranging economic and demographic diversity, each sub-region contributes in varying ways."

Over the coming 20 years, Boeing soothsayers see an overall 5.5 percent per year increase in traffic (revenue passenger-miles [RPMs]) in Asia/Pacific, driven by 3.9-percent annual growth in gross domestic product. This expected growth will be accommodated by a larger fleet growing annually by 4.6 percent as carriers take on some 17,390 new machines nominally worth $2.830 billion.

The U.S. company estimates that "robust" growth will continue, particularly in China and South and Southeast Asia, whose economies will expand and where more people will start to travel. "Growth in Asia is set to make it the largest overall market, with rapid growth in China making its domestic [travel] market the largest of all," according to the CMO.

"By 2038, 40 percent of [all] passengers will travel on an airline based in the Asia/Pacific area." Likewise, the document also predicts that by 2038 about 40 percent of new aircraft will be delivered to the region's operators.

Narrowbodies To Dominate

The forecast increase in Asia-Pacific demand will be the primary stimulus for airlines' acquisition of more than 13,000 narrowbody models that will account for about three-quarters of the region's deliveries. More than a fifth (22 percent) of new aircraft will comprise 3,800-plus widebody designs, according to Boeing, while remaining requirements will be 210 regional jets and 340 cargo aircraft (of all sizes).

Narrowbodies will remain the dominant sector, maintaining their present 72-percent share, while their numbers increase from 5,680 machines at the beginning of 2019 to 13,950 units in 2038—representing some 40 percent of the global fleet of single-aisle aircraft, say the manufacturer's analysts.

Among other-sized machines in Asia/Pacific, both smaller regional jets (RJs) and larger widebody designs are seen as declining very slightly, the two sectors each being reduced by a single percentage point to just one percent and 21 percent, respectively. Nevertheless, the RJ population will grow by about 85 percent–from 140 examples to an expected 260–alongside a predicted growth among widebodies from 1,710 to a much-larger 4,080, "driven by continued market fragmentation."

In the Asia-Pacific cargo fleet, numbers will grow by a small amount (just two percentage points) or, put another way, by a half–from four percent to six percent–as a share of the region's total fleet, from a population of 350 machines at the beginning of last year to a predicted 1,130 in 2038.

At 26 percent, airline traffic within Asia-Pacific represents the highest regional proportion of global traffic. The CMO predicts that by 2038 volume will have more than tripled to reach almost a third (32 percent, or more than 6,000 billion revenue passenger-kilometers [RPK]), equivalent to compound growth of 5.8 percent a year.

Boeing analysts have not only been looking forward. In retrospective consideration of Asia/Pacific market trends, they point out that the region's "impressive growth has increasingly shifted toward intra-regional [service] as air-travel growth to other regions has also been strong."

Air-travel capacity (available seat-miles [ASMs]) in Asia-Pacific increased almost 300 percent during 1998-2018, very much enhanced by "vast distances between countries, along with increasing economic ties and fast-growing economies within the region," says the CMO.

In turn, available capacity on flights to and from other regions grew by around 150 percent in that period; nevertheless, at a little more than 20,000 billion available seat-kilometers (ASK), volume still was about a third lower than local home-market travel, according to Boeing.

The smaller market in Asia-Pacific travel to and from the Middle East (seen as about 1,300 billion RPK per year by 2038) will have increased by 6.2 percent annually. Lower traffic levels on routes to Europe and North America are expected to double in the forecast period.

Overall, the manufacturer's forecasters see this region as benefitting from prevailing trends. "Asia/Pacific is home to some of the [world's] fastest-growing economies, [in which] strong economic and disposable-income growth are combining with new airline strategies and business models to spur above-average air-travel growth."

Also, national economies growing less fast could be stimulated by "liberalizing markets and increased airline competition" that jointly are seen boosting demand for travel. "Airlines in these more-mature economies are often seeing growth opportunities in long-haul markets, as well as connections to faster-growing economies within Asia."

Boeing concludes that despite Asia-Pacific's "heterogeneity [or diversity], many key demand structural forces will drive 5.5-percent average annual air-traffic growth for [the region's] carriers over the next two decades."