Industry sees prospects of long-term rebound

Issue: 3 / 2021

After flying into the financial turbulence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline sector expects passenger traffic to takeoff despite the problems afflicting the industry. In its latest look at trends for the sector, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it doesn’t expect world air traffic to resume to its pre-pandemic level before 2023. But over 20 years, air traffic should almost double, from 4.5 billion passengers in 2019 to 8.5 billion in 2039. That is, however, a drop of one billion passengers from IATA’s pre-crisis forecast. Nevertheless, that will be good news for aircraft manufacturers, who slowed down production during the crisis as airlines cancelled orders to stay financially afloat. Airbus has already announced its plans to step up manufacturing of its bestselling A320 single-aisle aircraft and should reach a record level already in 2023. Boeing, on its part, forecasts that airlines will need 43,110 new aircraft through 2039, which will result in a near doubling of the global fleet. Asia alone will account for 40 per cent of that demand. As with the September 11 attacks or the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, “the industry will prove resilient again,” Darren Hulst, Vice President of Marketing at Boeing, said last year. Marc Ivaldi, research director at the Paris-based School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, noted that only one per cent of the population currently uses air travel. If the biggest aircraft fleets are currently in the US and Europe, the biggest increases are expected in Asia and the Middle East, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman said in a recent study. Airbus delivered 19 per cent of its planes to China, more than the US and this trend is not expected to change.