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Airbus predicts soaring market as air travel demand rises

Air traffic will grow by 4.7 per cent a year over the next 20 years, according to Airbus’s latest Global Market Forecast (2013-2032), creating a demand for over 29,220 new passenger and freighter aircraft valued at nearly US$4.4 trillion.

John Leahy, Airbus COO, customers, told journalists in London that air traffic (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, RPK) consistently doubles every 15 years and is expected to continue doing so. “This industry is ten times larger than when the 747 was introduced” [in 1970], he said.

As aviation becomes increasingly accessible in all parts of the world, future journeys will increasingly be made by air particularly to and from emerging markets, according to the Global Market Forecast (GMF), driven by the much faster GDP growth in emerging economies than mature ones.

Economic growth is associated with increased business travel, but also with increased urbanisation (and access to airports) and higher disposable incomes - “and when people get money, they want to fly,” Leahy remarked.

“By 2032, Asia-Pacific will lead the world in traffic overtaking Europe and North America. Today on average, a fifth of the population of the emerging markets take a flight annually and by 2032, this will swell to two thirds. The attraction of air travel means that passenger numbers will more than double from today’s 2.9 billion, to 6.7 billion by 2032, clearly demonstrating aviation’s essential role in economic growth,” Leahy said.

However, he pointed out, there is “no way” that busy airports like London Heathrow and others could handle twice the number of aircraft movements. Instead, traffic growth has led to average aircraft size ‘growing’ by 25 per cent, with airlines selecting larger aircraft or up-sizing existing backlog orders. Larger aircraft such as the A380 combined with higher load factors make the most efficient use of limited slots and contribute to rising passenger numbers without additional flights.

The report identifies 42 cities today that handle more than 10,000 long-haul passengers per day, representing 93 per cent of the world’s long-haul traffic. By 2032 it predicts that there will be 90 of these ‘aviation mega-cities’, and 99 per cent of all long-haul traffic will be between or through these.

This development will drive demand for ‘Very Large Aircraft’ (such as the A380 and Boeing 747-8), which will account for 60 per cent of the market by value, but single-aisle aircraft will represent 70 per cent of units sold as fleet growth is accompanied by replacement of nearly 11,000 older aircraft.

The Global Market Forecast is available on the Airbus website and, for the first time, as an application for Apple and Android devices.

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