By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Airbus believes a large majority of Middle East aircraft deals in the next 20 years will be for small aircraft, including in the Middle East
The Airbus A380 will continue to be a “backbone” for air travel despite slower forecast demand for large aircraft over the next 20 years, according to Bob Lange, senior vice president and head of market and product strategy at the company.
In February, Airbus announced that the company would end A380 production by 2021, after Emirates reduced its last orders in favour of the A350 and A330neo aircraft. Airbus continues to provide maintenance, support and retrofitting services for the A380.
Lange said that Airbus currently continues to “see demand for large aircraft in the world and in the Middle East and that demand for large aircraft could support A380-size aircraft".
“However, the question is how much and at what level of technology,” he said.
“We needed to take a decision on the A380, which we did,” he added. “It will be the backbone for the air transport industry for that whole 20-year period [through 2038].”
Additionally, Lange sad that Airbus currently has no plans to build similar large aircraft to replace the A380 in the future.
“In terms of the demand for other large aircraft later, it’s not currently part of our plans,” he said. “We see likewise a growth for smaller aircraft replacing large aircraft where slots are not constricted”
According to Airbus forecasts, the total size of the fleet of Airbus operators – both domiciled and foreign – will reach 1,730 aircraft by 2038, up from 630 today.
Currently, about 293 of the total fleet is composed of large aircraft, while 77 are “medium” aircraft and 261 are smaller, short-haul aircraft.
By 2038, 791 of the UAE’s total fleet is expected to be made up of large aircraft, compared to 185 medium aircraft and 754 small aircraft.
“We expect the smaller aircraft to catch up in 20 years’ time, but it will still be fairly balanced market between smaller and larger aircraft,” Lange said. “The reason for that is that the UAE and Middle East is really at the centre of the world as far as a crossroads is concerned…. you could get almost anywhere from the UAE.
“You get that balance because you have the large aircraft serving the hub transport and connecting markets, and smaller aircraft feeding those large aircraft."
In its Global Market Forecast (GMF) Airbus estimated that 39,210 new passenger and freighter aircraft will be needed by 2038, with smaller aircraft expected to account for 29,720 – or 76 percent of new deals.
The report also noted that in the Middle East, passenger growth is expected to increase at a rate of 5.6 percent per annum, compared to the global average of 4.3 percent.
The GMF also estimated that the number of Middle East ‘aviation mega cities’ – cities in which 10,000 or more long-haul passengers transit daily – will more than double to 11 over the next 20 years to include cities such as Muscat and Kuwait City.