Fri 18 Sep 2009 – According to aircraft manufacturer Airbus, global air passenger traffic is set to increase by over 150% over the next 20 years, representing an annual growth of 4.7%. The size of the world’s passenger aircraft fleet will double in number from 14,016 in 2008 to 28,111. The fastest growing regions will be India, China and Africa, driven by deregulation, economic growth, population growth and inter-regional trade. Europe and North America, which combined made up around 59% of global revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) in 2008, will see their share of the global market decline to 46% by 2028, with Asia becoming the leading region with a third of the world’s traffic.
The latest Airbus Global Market Forecast says from an annual growth in RPKs of 6% in 2007, traffic slowed to a 2% growth in 2008 and this year will see an expected decline of 2%. By next year, a worst case scenario suggests zero growth and a best case of a return to growth of 4.6%.
The plane-maker says the greatest demand for passenger aircraft will be from airlines in Asia-Pacific and emerging markets. The region that includes China and India will account for 31% of the total, followed by Europe (25%) and North America (23%). In terms of domestic passenger markets, India (10%) and China (7.9%) will have the fastest growth over the next 20 years. The largest by volume of traffic will remain domestic US.
Airbus says the main drivers of future traffic growth will be:
· growing Middle East passenger and cargo hubs;
· in Asia, more people able and wanting to fly everyday;
· low-cost carriers in Asia growing in number and traffic share;
· more potential through deregulation, particularly in Asia and Africa; and
· growing urbanization and a resulting increased demand between major cities.
Despite the frequent crises and downturns, air travel growth has remained resilient and Airbus foresees the trend of the doubling of annual traffic in the past 15 years continuing for the next 15.
“Air transportation is a growth industry, and an essential ingredient in the world economy,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers. “Technology and innovation are key drivers for an eco-efficient aviation sector, and Airbus is at the forefront of both.”
Airbus cites a study by Oxford Economics that predicts in 20 years time, air transport will directly employ 8.5 million people worldwide and contribute $1 trillion annually to world GDP, with considerable additional tourism and other indirect benefits.
Unsurprisingly for the manufacturer of the A380 super-jumbo, Airbus says air traffic growth, increased frequencies, cost reductions, environmental responsibilities and airport congestion are increasingly influencing airlines to capitalize on the benefits of larger aircraft. It says in 2007, airlines in the US wasted 740 million gallons of fuel in congestion delays, equivalent to 32,000 London to New York flights. Bigger aircraft with reduced CO2 emissions are a solution, it states. Airbus calculates aircraft have increased in size by 3% in the last 10 years and predicts by 2028 the average aircraft will be 26% bigger than today.
Airbus foresees a steady rise in ‘mega city’ hubs, with a greater concentration of traffic and linked by Very Large Aircraft (VLA) such as the A380. More than 50% of the world’s VLAs will be operated by airlines in the Asia-Pacific region, it estimates. By 2028, 14 of the top 20 large aircraft airports will be in Asia-Pacific, with Hong Kong handling the biggest number and London Heathrow in second place.
At the GMF presentation, Airbus Senior Vice President, Marketing & Strategy, Laurent Rouaud, said high fuel prices and environmental needs will drive innovation in alternative fuels. “The age of cheap oil is over,” he said, and that by 2030, 30% of aviation’s fuel needs will be derived from alternative, sustainable sources, with algae a “key candidate”.
While Airbus was promoting the air transport sector as a growth industry, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) was raising its previous estimates on the losses likely to be suffered by the commercial airline industry this year. It now believes the sector will lose a combined $11 billion in 2009, following a loss in 2008 of $16.8 billion. Its outlook for 2010 is a loss at a lower level of $3.8 billion, with a possible return to profit in 2011.
Only three years in this decade – 2000, 2006 and 2007 – have seen net profitability by the global commercial airline industry.
Asia to lead in world air traffic by 2028 (source: Airbus)
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