Airbus, Boeing forecast 33-40,000 commercial aircraft required through 2035

The Airbus A350 arrives at the Farnborough Air Show. (Airbus)
The Airbus A350 arrives at the Farnborough Air Show. (Airbus)

Airbus predicts 33,000 commercial aircraft will be required, while Boeing’s crystal ball suggests a market of nearly 40,000 new commercial aircraft — valued at, Airbus reckons, US$5.2 trillion, while Boeing estimates US$5.9 trillion — over the next 20 years, the airframers said at the 2016 Farnborough Air Show on Monday (European time).

These regular commercial market outlooks take into account (on Boeing’s list) emerging markets, competitive landscape, market liberalisation, fuel price, economic growth, airplane capabilities, infrastructure, the environment and airline strategies and business models to give an idea of the scale of production, suggest how its fleet meets demand, and highlight trends in the industry.

It is, perhaps, a sign of just how much any change in assumption or inclusion of certain data can change these forecasts — that Airbus’ and Boeing’s can differ by nearly a fifth. Nevertheless, the way in which both companies see the future is telling for their product strategies.

Both airframers highlight the rise in emerging markets, particularly in Asia, with Boeing noting the rise of LCCs in China (where its 737 NG and 737 MAX generations of aircraft are doing well in sales and operations) would be key, while Airbus focused on the rising middle class in India (where its A320 and A320neo families are showing significant success). “Middle classes in emerging markets will double to 3.5 billion people by 2035,” Airbus’ forecast suggests.

Yet growth in more mature markets will be no slouch: “In economies like Western Europe or North America, air traffic growth will be 3.7 per cent” over the next 20 years, Airbus estimated.

Boeing's assets at the Farnborough Air Show include the 737 MAX 8. (Boeing/Twitter)
Boeing’s assets at the Farnborough Air Show include the 737 MAX 8. (Boeing/Twitter)

Boeing sledges Airbus, will have Australia/APAC numbers in September

Boeing’s Australia and APAC-specific forecast will be released in September, Boeing vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth said during the press conference, declining to comment further.

Both Boeing and Airbus see nearly three quarters of demand in the single-aisle market. “There’s no question the heart of the single aisle market is around the new Boeing MAX 8 and the current 737-800. Airplanes that size already account for 76 per cent of the global single aisle backlog, and our products have the clear advantage in that space,” Boeing’s Tinseth said.

Boeing’s announcement was marked by an unusual amount of sledging of the Airbus product line, with Boeing fighting from a relatively weak narrowbody position given the capabilities of its Boeing 737 MAX family, which is to an extent hamstrung on the next-generation larger turbofan engines it can take on account of being lower to the ground than the competition.

Airbus returns to megacities in reminder that A380 before its time

Perhaps unsurprisingly as the airframer with the better Very Large Aircraft proposition in the A380, Airbus’ widebody focus was 9,500 compared with Boeing’s 9,100. Given the comparatively fewer aircraft expected by Airbus, and the fact that its narrowbody family serves longer and larger routes than Boeing’s, it’s notable that proportionally more of its forecast is composed of aircraft larger than narrowbodies.

Airbus suggests that the number of “aviation megacities” with over 50,000 daily passengers will rise from 55 to 93 by 2035, and with many of those cities’ airports being constrained by slots and runways, and airport development unpopular among residents, the answer to which the European planemaker is pointing has two decks and a new #iflyA380 hashtag. (And a new flight search-come-aspirational marketing website that lets passengers search for A380-only itineraries.)

“Boeing projects a continued shift from very large airplanes to small and medium widebodies such as the 787, 777 and 777X”, Airbus said, although it’s not clear how or why a 777X is counted as a medium widebody.

Boeing’s shift is also somewhat counter to the fact that larger widebodies today hold fewer passengers than larger widebodies of the past, thanks to more spacious business class seats requiring more real estate, more premium economy, and in North America particularly the rise of extra-legroom economy cabins.

Talking Australia-Pacific, Airbus sees mature Australia but surging Asia

Airbus’ Fabrice Valentin, head of market research and forecasts in the airframer’s strategy and future programmes section, sat down with Australian Aviation to talk Australia, NZ and Asia-Pacific (which, for Airbus, is everything east of the Middle East with the exception of Russia and the CIS).

Growth in Australia “will be what connects the country to the rest of the region. You can tell Australia is extremely well placed, economically, in terms of air transport, and also for tourism. We have strong growth between Australia and the region behind. The purely domestic market will not grow as fast as what we see between Asia. The links between Australia and Asia are the mirror of the economics links, which are getting stronger, and you have the traffic growth getting stronger”, Valentin said.

“We see a lot of growth obviously in China and India. When you look at where the traffic will grow the fastest, it’s clearly going to be India. Domestically, that’s where we see the highest growth in terms of traffic. In terms of volume, China will be the number one market. Today it’s already pretty close to one of the largest flows, and over the next 10 years it will overtake even the US. You also have a lot of what we call intra-regional traffic growth.

“One thing we have observed recently which has really fuelled this growth is the liberalisation in those areas — the ASEAN and cross-straights liberalisation. You have a boost in terms of traffic. We’re focussed on finding where that liberalisation might happen, because it is one of the strongest factors in growth.”

Regardless of which set of airframer tea leaves ends up matching closer to the future in 20 years’ time, the general direction the world’s largest airplane manufacturers think it will take is clear.

Heavy rain forced organisers to cancel Monday’s planned aerial displays. However, a flavour of what took place on the opening day of the event can be seen on Boeing and Airbus’ twitter pages.

More details about Airbus’s Global Market Forecast can be found on the airframe’s website.

The Boeing Current Market Outlook for 2016-2035 is here.