Airbus forecasts increased demand for new eco-efficient airliners to cope with continued passenger and freight growth
Thu 7 Feb 2008 – According to its latest Global Market Forecast, Airbus foresees a demand for some 24,300 new passenger and freighter aircraft between now and 2026, creating an average annual delivery of some 1,215 aircraft – up from the previously estimated 1,130 in the last Forecast.
Demand will drive the need for more fuel- and eco-efficient airliners to cope with traffic growth and the need to replace older generation, less efficient aircraft. By 2026, says Airbus, the fuel burn of the average world fleet is expected to be around three litres per 100 passenger kilometres, or what the new A380 is now delivering.
The world’s fleet, estimates Airbus, which includes both passenger (from 100 seats to very large aircraft) and freighter aircraft, will grow from 14,980 at the end of 2006 to nearly 33,000 by 2026. At the same time, some 13,772 aircraft from the existing fleet will be replaced by more eco-efficient models. Of these, 4,412 will be recycled back into passenger service, where they too will replace an older generation model with another airline. It is also forecast that 2,901 will be converted to freighters and the remaining 6,459 will be permanently retired or withdrawn from service, where increasing numbers will be decommissioned through environmentally sensitive programmes, such as the Airbus PAMELA project.
Passenger growth is expected to grow at an average rate of 4.9% per year, which Airbus believes will be partly absorbed by higher load factors as well as bigger aircraft and increased frequencies. Even so, it predicts, the world’s airlines will more than double their passenger fleets of 100 seats or more, from some 13,300 today to some 28,550 in 2026. This increase, together with a forecast replacement of close to 8,150 older aircraft, means a total of 23,385 new passenger airliners will be needed.
Air freight is forecast to grow even faster, with freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) increasing annually by 5.8%. Combined with fleet renewal, this will create a demand for some 3,800 freighter deliveries of which nearly 900 will be new aircraft.
The greatest demand for passenger aircraft will be from the Asia-Pacific region, which will account for 31% of the total world demand for aircraft, followed by North America (27%) and Europe (24%). Emerging markets are also driving demand. Whilst China and India will remain the largest, Airbus forecasts that some 30 additional emerging economies, including Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam, with a combined population of almost three billion people, will grow increasingly prominent by 2026.
As populations and the number of the world’s mega-cities continue to grow, there will be a greater local concentration of demand, says the aircraft manufacturer. At the end of 2006, it calculates that 77% of all long-haul passenger traffic already operated out of the 32 largest existing hub cities for large point-to-point flights. By 2026, it believes that these mega hub cities will all be served by Very Large Aircraft (VLA), defined as seating more than 400 passengers, like the A380, with Asia-Pacific being the dominant region, requiring more than 700 passenger VLAs, or 56% of world demand. Twelve of the top 20 large airports for VLA operations will be located in the region.
Demand for twin-aisle aircraft (seating from 250 to 400 passengers) will continue to grow strongly with some 6,000 new passenger and freighter aircraft being delivered in the next two decades. Breaking this sector down, demand in the smaller twin-aisle market (250-300 seater aircraft) will total more than 4,000 new aircraft, with a further 2,000 larger intermediate twin-aisles (350-400 seater aircraft) required.
More than 16,600 aircraft, or 68% of all deliveries in the next 20 years, will be single-aisle aircraft, representing 40% of all aircraft deliveries by value. The demand for these aircraft will be in large part from North America (32%), followed by Asia-Pacific (26%), Europe (25%) and the rest of the world (17%).
Airbus’ forecasts are a little less optimistic than its arch-rival, Boeing. The US aircraft manufacturer, in its Current Market Outlook 2007, estimates 28,600 new airplanes will be delivered over the next 20 years, making up 80% of the 36,400 airplanes it says will be in service in 2026.
Boeing says passenger traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), will grow by an average 5.0% per year until 2026, compared to Airbus’ figure of 4.9%. The former believes air freight, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), will grow 6.1% against the Airbus calculation of 5.8%.
Airbus and Boeing continue to fundamentally disagree over future trends in medium to long haul passenger travel. Airbus says Very Large Aircraft serving large international hubs, backed up by a feeder network of smaller domestic and regional airports, is the answer to infrastructure and environmental constraints. Hence its heavy investment in the A380 project. On the other hand, Boeing believes the market is best served by offering passengers more convenient point-to-point flights that avoid congested hubs, which is illustrated by its development of the smaller 200-300 seat 787 Dreamliner.
However, they are both of the same opinion that the passenger and freight aircraft market will be worth $2.8 trillion through to 2026.