Concerns are growing that the international banking crisis could severely affect the ability of carriers to raise the estimated $70 billion needed to fund their deliveries in 2009.
One analyst warns there is a risk that up to 200 new aircraft could temporarily end up in the desert next year while funding is organised.
"We potentially have around 1,000 Airbus and Boeing jet deliveries scheduled in 2009, and another 200-plus Embraer and Bombardier aircraft," says UK analyst Ascend's director of consultancy, Edward Pieniazek. "If that is the case, the industry will need to find around $70 billion to help pay for these aircraft."
He says that estimates suggest some $22.5 billion could be raised from lessors or banks, another $22.5 billion from European export credit agencies and the US Exim Bank, with $10 billion coming from manufacturers - a total of $55 billion.
But Pieniazek warns that a worst-case scenario could see a funding gap of $15 billion: "Right now we don't really know where the money is going to come from, and the danger is, if the money doesn't arrive, you could see 200 new aircraft heading for the desert."
Pieniazek adds that even a lower funding gap of $5 billion "could be equivalent to over 50 aircraft temporarily 'white-tailed' while financing is arranged".
For the 200-aircraft "worst case scenario" to occur, Pieniazek says a few big "ifs" would need to materialise: "If the capital markets disappear totally from the equation, if that $15 billion shortfall is not met by other funding sources and if the manufacturers produce the full quota of aircraft."
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark expects there will be a "capacity-to-fund issue generally" next year and "a high cost of money", but he adds that the industry will "just have to bite the bullet on that".
Clark is not concerned, however, that it will affect Emirates' expansion plans for next year: "Banks will be looking for gilts - and Emirates will be one of these so I don't see a problem. We have everything covered until the end of next year."
Allco Finance Group director of aviation asset finance Bill Cumberlidge told an aviation finance conference in Hong Kong earlier this month that "nobody is getting out of this alive". Allco subsequently called in receivers after losing its battle with mounting debt earlier this month, and is seeking to sell its aviation portfolio.