Oliver Wyman Gauges Covid’s Damage to Future Airliner Fleets

 - January 28, 2021, 11:51 AM

Analysis performed by the Oliver Wyman consulting firm for a ten-year fleet and MRO market forecast revealed that Covid-19 will affect the size of the global airliner fleet beyond 2031, following a decade of continuing restrained growth and consolidation. The report, released Thursday, shows that although the world’s fleet will reach 36,500 in ten years, that figure represents “a far cry” from the more than 39,000 airplanes forecasters expected to serve the industry in 2030.

At its lowest point during the pandemic, the in-service fleet numbered about 13,000 aircraft, less than half the number flying in January 2020 as the outbreak began to spread. Today, the fleet size stands at some 23,700 aircraft.

Fewer aircraft flying means OEMs will need to produce less and MROs will need to maintain fewer airplanes, said Oliver Wyman. Given the inventory backlog of new equipment now built but undelivered or unsold, airlines will take delivery of more aircraft over the next several years than aerospace manufacturers will produce, it added. While production and deliveries closely align in normal years, the imbalance reflects conflicting pressures on airframe manufacturers to balance lower market demand with the needs of key suppliers to maintain enough production.

Oliver Wyman projects that airline traffic won’t recover to 2019 levels until at least 2022. It also concluded that the recovery of other parts of the aerospace industry will lag by “a year or two.” For consumers, the slow recovery might mean fewer direct and less frequent routes—at least until the pandemic comes under control and normal economic activity returns.

“The impact of Covid on the MRO market will also be significant—both in the short and long terms,” said Oliver Wyman.  “Short term, demand in 2020 and 2021 is expected to be 33 percent, or $60 billion, below pre-Covid projections for the combined two years. Over the next 10 years, the industry will lose more than $95 billion in revenue compared with pre-Covid expectations.”  

Despite the challenges, Oliver Wyman pointed to some positive signs. For example, it expects narrowbody deliveries to reach 90 percent of pre-Covid projections over the next decade. In contrast, it expects a 40 percent shortfall in widebody deliveries and production compared with previous predictions due to the drop in international and business travel driven by changing corporate travel policies and government restrictions.

Nevertheless, the consultancy takes a positive view of the long-term recovery of the MRO industry, calling it a “bright spot.”

“Aftermarket providers will begin to see consistent growth over the mid and long terms, as the size of the fleet expands and the overall age increases. This will drive interest from private equity and other investors,” it concluded.