Airbus and Boeing have made much of the Asia-Pacific as a potential market for high-capacity aircraft such as the A380 and 747-8I, but this part of the market looks set to remain a highly specialised niche.
In September, Airbus’s global market forecast for the next 20 years predicted a market of 1,334 high capacity aircraft, of which 47%, or 627 aircraft, will go to Asia-Pacific operators. Boeing’s current market outlook foresees global demand for 780 “large widebodies”, of which 34%, or 265 aircraft, will go to Asia-Pacific operators.
Assuming that the truth in the two forecasts sits in the average between them, that would indicate that Asia Pacific carriers will account for 446 very large aircraft in the coming years, but data from Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database highlights how small the market for such aircraft has become.
Asia-Pacific operators have 274 aircraft with more than 350 seats in service. Of these, 150 aircraft (55%) are in the 350-400 seat category, while 95 (35%) are in the 400-500 seat category. There are just 29 aircraft in the Asia-Pacific that Ascend shows as having capacity above 500 seats, accounting for just 11% of the region’s widebody market.
Asia Pacific widebody fleet composition
As for Asia-Pacific operators’ 204 firm orders for widebodies, Ascend indicates that only 17 aircraft on order have capacity above 500 seats, for an 8% share of total orders. Asia-Pacific operators have orders for 67 aircraft with capacity in the 400-500 range, for a 33% share, and orders for 120 aircraft with 350-400 seats, for a 59% order share.
Widebodies on order with Asia Pacific carries as measured by capacity
The Flightglobal Fleet Forecast 2013-2032, for its part, sees demand for just 183 high capacity aircraft over the next two decades, out of total demand for 1,800 widebodies in the region.
It is all but inevitable that Boeing will officially launch its new 777X at next week’s Dubai air show. This aircraft, due to enter service in 2019, will have two variants, with the -8X accommodating 350 passengers and the -9X accommodating over 407 in a three-class configuration.
Boeing has said that the 777X aircraft are likely to be 20% more fuel-efficient than the 777-300ER, which emerged as the true replacement of the 747-400. The Airbus A350-1000 should offer similar efficiency gains.
Despite the optimism of the world’s biggest airframers over their flagship double-decker products in the Asia-Pacific, the current market size for such types and the advent of yet more efficient “heavy twins” will make for an increasingly challenging marketplace.