Airframer increases delivery prediction by 30% in latest outlook as single-aisle aircraft demand is expected to surge

Airbus has boosted its prediction for long-term aircraft sales by more than 30% in its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), largely due to the influence of new markets in the CIS, China and India on demand for air travel. The manufacturer has also included a forecast for regional aircraft for the first time - and remains convinced that there will be more than 1,600 aircraft delivered in the A380's size category.

The 20-year GMF puts total demand for airliners and freighters at 22,660 aircraft - a 31% increase on the figure Airbus published in its last GMF two years ago. Of these, 21,860 will be passenger aircraft (up 32% on the last GMF) and the remainder - 803 aircraft - will be freighters. The overall forecast is valued at $2,600 billion.

Not included in the headline figures, but tucked away in the pages of the GMF document, is the airframer's first published forecast for the 50- to 85-seat category, where it forecasts 3,990 deliveries (1,200 50-seaters and 2,780 70/85 seaters).

The biggest increase is in the single-aisle sector which, in the latest forecast, has grown by over 40% to 15,330 aircraft. "We've been more bullish with the demand from emerging markets in the CIS, China and India," says Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy.

From the 10,900 single-aisle deliveries forecast in the 2004 GMF, Airbus has added 1,000 units each for the CIS and China, and 600 for India. "Combined with 1,000 more aircraft due to growth, 500 for low-cost carriers in emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, and 300 due to our larger coverage of the 100-seat market, this takes the single-aisle forecast to 15,330 aircraft," says Leahy.

Although in terms of units, this figure represents 68% of the global market, from a value perspective it is less than 40%, with the widebody sector (250- to 400-seat twin-aisles) below the A380 accounting for a slightly greater ratio of the dollars (41% or $1,070 billion).

Airbus has restructured its two twin-aisle categories and increased the delivery forecast by almost a fifth to 5,270 aircraft. "We've added 418 aircraft for emerging markets and 400 for another two years' growth since the last GMF," says Leahy.

Airbus breaks down the twin-aisle market into two categories - "small twin-aisle" and "intermediate twin-aisle" - within which there are four generic classes: 250-seaters, 300-seaters, 350-seaters and 400-seaters. A redefinition of categories since the last GMF sees the 300-seater class shifted from the upper category to the lower one.

"We redefined the two twin-aisle categories to give them a better balance," says Airbus vice-president market research and forecasts Laurent Rouaud. "Before we had three generic seating classes in the larger category and felt that we should have two in each category."

While the revamp significantly alters the headline figures, when broken down the changes are less dramatic. All but the 400-seater sector have increased by between 18% and 23% (see graphic), with the latter (in which the A340-600 competes with the 777-300ER and 747-400) only growing by 6%.

airbus twinaisle

Rouaud says that the reason for this less-bullish view of the 400-seater sector is due to the influence of the product offerings from Airbus and Boeing to increase demand in the 250- to 350-seater categories where the A330, A340, A350 XWB, and Boeing 777 and 787 all compete.

While Airbus's latest figures for large airliner deliveries back its long-standing conviction about demand for A380-sized aircraft, the lack of significant growth in the demand forecast, relative to all the other categories, is interesting. Airbus estimates that 1,260 A380-sized passenger aircraft will be delivered over the next 20 years - a 1% increase on the 2004 forecast. However, it has increased demand expectations for freighters in this category by 30% to 521. Rouaud says this again partly reflects the influence that the increasing number of offerings from Airbus and Boeing are expected to have on demand for large freighters.

One significant effect of the huge rise in the overall demand forecast is the average delivery rate over the next 20 years, which Airbus puts at 1,130 aircraft. This is 30% up on the 860 figure produced two years ago, and over 20% more than the highest annual production total yet achieved by Airbus and Boeing combined in 1999, when they shipped 914 aircraft combined.

Source: Flight International