According to its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), Airbus Industrie (Toulouse, France) foresees a demand for 24,300 new commercial passenger and freighter aircraft valued at $2.8 trillion (USD) between now and 2026. This will create an average annual delivery of some 1,215 aircraft, up from the previously forecast of 1,130 average deliveries in the previous GMF. Meanwhile, U.S.-based rival The Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.), in its even more optimistic Current Market Outlook 2007, foresees 28,600 new-airplane deliveries over the same period, with those planes making up 80 percent of the 36,400 airplanes that will be in service in 2026.
Both of the aircraft giants see the greatest demand for passenger aircraft coming from the Asia-Pacific region, which will account for 31 percent of the total world demand for aircraft. North American and European demand will trail behind, at 27 and 24 percent of the total, respectively.
Emerging markets are expected to drive the growth. While China and India will remain the greatest forces, Airbus forecasts that some 30 other emerging economies, including Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam — with a combined population of almost 3 billion people — will become increasingly prominent by 2026.
Airbus contends that there will be great need for more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly airliners to replace older, less efficient aircraft as airlines cope with traffic growth. By 2026, the company estimates the fuel burn of the average world fleet will be 1 liter per 100 passenger km — about what its A380 superjumbo reportedly delivers today.
Passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average rate of 4.9 percent per year, leading to a nearly threefold increase during the forecast period. According to Airbus, the world’s airlines will more than double the number of passenger aircraft that have 100 seats or more, from 13,300 today to 28,550 in 2026. This increase, together with a forecast replacement of close to 8,150 older aircraft, creates a need for nearly 23,400 new passenger aircraft.
Airbus also foresees a demand for 1,700 very large aircraft (VLA), those that seat more than 400 passengers. Of these, nearly 1,300 will be passenger aircraft, with another 400 or so required for superjumbo freighters. By the year 2026, almost two-thirds of all VLAs will serve today’s 32 “mega-city” hubs. Here, the Asia-Pacific region will predominate, requiring more than 700 passenger VLAs or 56 percent of world demand. Twelve of the top 20 large airports for VLA operations will be located in the region.
According to Airbus, the air freight market will grow even faster, with freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) increasing annually by 5.8 percent. Combined with fleet renewal, this will require some 3,800 freighter deliveries. Nearly 900 of them will be new, factory-built.
According to Boeing’s Outlook, the intense competition in the airline industry will demand that new airplanes bring substantial benefits not only in performance and economy but also in convenience to the flying customer. The company is banking, therefore, on airline orders for smaller aircraft that will fly more direct routes, taking passengers to destinations nonstop rather than funneling then through congested hubs in large aircraft. Accordingly, in Boeing’s Outlook, plane delivery predictions contrast sharply with those published by Airbus. Boeing believes that the vast majority of new deliveries (17,850) will comprise single-aisle aircraft, while only 3 percent of the aircraft manufactured from now until 2026 will be VLAs (see chart, above). Boeing envisions that rapidly expanding, low-cost airlines will account for more than one-third of the market for new planes. Slightly more than half of new deliveries will go to traditional carriers. More than one-third of the value of new airplanes delivered will be accounted for by the Asia-Pacific region. China will lead long-term growth in domestic air travel markets, says Boeing: Its capacity growth rate of 8.1 percent will combine with increased load factors to propel its airline traffic from just under one-fifth, today, to more than half the size of the North American domestic market in 20 years.
Boeing’s take on the air cargo market is average growth of 6.1 percent per year. This will triple the volume of world air cargo traffic by 2026. Average freighter size will increase, and the dedicated cargo fleet will double from 1,980 to 3,980 airplanes. Some of the increase will be accounted for by 2,480 passenger-to-freighter conversions. In addition, 870 new, dedicated freighters will be delivered. By 2026, about 64 percent of the freighter fleet will be wide-body types, up from about 58 percent today.
Both company’s forecasts are available on their respective Web sites: www.airbus.com and www.boeing.com.