Airbus forecast global air travel growth
September 18 2019 08:04 PM
Alex Macheras
Alex Macheras

By Alex Macheras

The world’s passenger and freighter aircraft fleet is set to more than double from today’s nearly 23,000 to almost 48,000 by 2038 with traffic growing at 4.3% annually, according to Airbus’ brand new Global Market Forecast.

By 2038, of the forecast 47,680 fleet, 39,210 are new and 8,470 remain from today, Airbus said. Airbus says that A220, A320neo family, A330neo and the A350 jets will “largely contribute to the progressive decarbonisation of the air transport industry and the objective of carbon neutral growth from 2020 while connecting more people globally” but ultimately will take more than new aircraft to help aviation become more sustainable.

While many point to how we’ll soon be flying in electric jets, the reality is, we’re a long way from being able to fly long-haul on aircraft that are emission free. Battery complications, weight constraints, and the lack of a technological solution that’s here today are slowing the process to carbon neutral flying.

One of the most effective ways in which we could fly more sustainably is by building an expectation of our airlines. In the heart of a ‘climate crisis,’ we need to expect our airlines to be using the sustainable solutions available today — such as sustainable alternative fuels.

The sustainable alternative fuels supplied by the likes of Shell Aviation produce up to 80% less CO2 over its lifecycle, compared to conventional jet fuel — but why are the airlines slow at adopting this alternative? The price of SAF fuel is still higher than convention fuel, and it’s widely because the demand for this type of fuel hasn’t driven the price down yet. But as consumers, we can help create a demand — a demand for our airlines to ensure we are flying in the most sustainable way possible.

In Airbus’ latest forecast, the company has also recategorised jets. A short haul A321 is Small (S) while the long-haul A321LR or XLR can be categorised as Medium (M). Airbus recognises that while the core market for the A330 is classified as Medium (M), it is likely a number will continue to be operated by airlines in a way that sits within the Large (L) market segmentation along with the A350 XWB.

The new segmentation gives rise to a need for 39,210 new passenger and freighter aircraft – consisting of – 29,720 Small (S), 5,370 Medium (M) and 4,120 Large (L). 25,000 aircraft are for growth, while 14,210 are to replace older models flying today with newer, more fuel efficient jets.

Here in the Middle East, a trend in market evidence shows how the region is growing low cost carrier (LCC) airlines, which grew seat capacity more than 12% in 2018. European LCCs have begun opening routes into the region including into Jordan and the Lebanon. Codeshare activity between at least one European LCC and a Middle Eastern carrier is another development.

Geographically, the Middle East aviation industry has always benefited from its central positioning, but when specifically plotting all of the world’s population against the world’s regions, the Middle East is closest to the world’s travelling population – 100% are within 8,400nm.

There are 5 aviation mega-cities in the region (potentially Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat, Jeddah), but by 2038, Airbus forecast that there will be at least 11.

Inbound traffic to the region grew nearly 10% per annum between 2002 and 2018, and both resilient to a number of global crisis over that period.

Airbus reduced its forecast for average traffic growth to 4.3% a year from 4.4% in its previous report – and while airline industry statistics show air traffic is’s happening at a slower rate this year amid various international trade tensions.

*The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir

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