Airbus is expecting a substantial shift in the trend to replace older aircraft types over the next 20 years, predicting that 40% of new aircraft demand will be used for fleet replacement – noticeably up from its previous estimate of one-third.

Speaking ahead of the Dubai air show, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer said the airframer expects new-build demand for 39,000 aircraft over 2021-40.

He says the market has essentially lost two years of growth, and that the company’s forecast consequently shares similarities with its pre-pandemic 20-year outlook.

Airbus is projecting a “corridor of recovery” of global traffic, returning to pre-crisis level over 2023-25 – and argues that the recovery track is following the more optimistic scenario.


Source: Airbus

But Scherer emphasises that only 13% of the global fleet comprises “new generation” types such as the A320neo and A350, and that there is a “financial thirst” to replace the high proportion of older airframes.

Airbus is predicting a market for 29,700 small aircraft plus 5,300 in the medium-sized sector, and 4,000 large airframes.

It is expecting e-commerce to lift freight traffic, forecasting general cargo growth of 2.7% annually and express freight growth of 4.7%.

Airbus puts the demand for freighters at 2,440 aircraft over the next two decades. Of these about 880 will be new-build aircraft.

New-build demand will focus on larger aircraft, because smaller cargo jets are more likely to be conversions. “That’s why we’re excited about the A350 freighter,” says Scherer.

Airbus believes the overall demand for large freighters – carrying 80t or more – will amount to 540 aircraft, with mid-size and small freighters accounting for 900 and 1,000 aircraft respectively.