Despite the sharp downturn in commercial aviation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry is still on course to meet its long-term trajectory.
Demand is projected at 19,000 new commercial aircraft over the next 10 years and peaking at 43,000 by 2040.
The forecast is still down eight percent on the 50,000 aircraft that Boeing had predicted in its pre-crisis forecast in 2019, but still more optimistic than last year. That demand will be driven by a combination of replacements of current aircraft and long-term passenger and air cargo demand growth in longer-haul markets.
Four regions of the world — China, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific — will account for 80 percent of demand for new aircraft with the rest coming from emerging markets.
Passenger traffic went down 66 percent in 2020 relative to 2019 as governments shut down borders and introduced restrictions to travel as the Covid-19 outbreak rapidly spread across the world over a five-month period.
The measures froze the global economy with travel now expected to rebound to 2019 levels, starting in 2023. Airline lobby IATA said industry losses for 2020 are estimated at $126.4 billion while another $47.7 billion in losses is expected this year.
However, in its 10-year and 20-year market forecast released on September 14, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing sees no impacts on the long-term outlook, with the growth also expected to result in a requirement for 2.1 million personnel to fly and maintain the world’s commercial aircraft fleet over the period. The airframer sees a need for 612,000 pilots, 886,000 cabin crew members and 626,000 maintenance technicians.
“The new Commercial Market Outlook (CMO) reflects that the global market is recovering largely as Boeing projected in 2020. Demand for domestic air travel is leading the recovery, with intra-regional markets expected to follow as health and travel restrictions ease, followed by long-haul travel’s return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023 to 2024,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The 19,000 aircraft in the forecast are valued at $3.2 trillion at current prices while the 43,610 aircraft, which will be required during the two decades to 2040, will earn manufacturers $7.2 trillion. The latest forecast is more optimistic, adding 500 airplanes to the numbers projected last year.
Single aisle aircraft above 90 seats will lead demand accounting for an estimated 32,660 of the projected total, followed by 7,670 widebodies and 2,390 regional jets seating up to 90 passengers. The freighter market will require 890 widebody aircraft, underpinning the sustained growth of e-commerce and subsequent demand for speed and reliability. Boeing sees the global freighter fleet being 70 percent larger in 2040 relative to 2019.
“While we remain realistic about ongoing challenges, the past year has shown that passenger traffic rebounds swiftly when the flying public and governments have confidence in health and safety during air travel. Our industry continues to serve an essential role of bringing people together and transporting critical supplies,” said Mr Deal.
Growth in passenger traffic is projected at four percent annually, but in the short term, this will largely depend on the pace and distribution of vaccination against Covid-19.
Countries that have vaccinated with more widespread vaccination distribution have shown rapid air travel recovery, as governments ease domestic restrictions and open borders to international travel.
“As our industry recovers and continues to adapt to meet new global needs, we remain confident in long-term growth for aerospace. We are encouraged by the fact that scientists have delivered vaccines more rapidly than imaginable and that passengers are demonstrating strong confidence in airplane travel,” said Boeing chief strategy officer Marc Allen.