Airbus predicts demand for 39,000 new passenger and freighter aircraft by 2040, driven by airlines replacing older, less fuel efficient aircraft, rather than growing fleets. 

The European manufacturer unveiled the latest predictions at the Dubai Airshow on November 13, 2021. 

As economies and air transport mature, we see demand increasingly driven by replacement rather than growth. Replacement being today’s most significant driver for decarbonisation,” Christian Scherer, chief commercIal officer said in a press statement.  “The world is expecting more sustainable flying and this will be made possible in the short-term by the introduction of most modern airplanes.”

Scherer said sustainable aviation fuel was the “next big lever” for more sustainable flying. All Airbus aircraft are currently certified to fly on a mixture of 50% SAF and Airbus plans to make it 100% by 2030. 

Airbus also said passenger traffic was due to grow at 3.9% annually, driven by rising GDP and a growing middle class that is keen to travel. That’s a downgrade from a previous prediction for annual passenger traffic growth of 4.3%, made two years ago, with Airbus citing nearly two years of lost growth due to the COVD-19 pandemic. 

The demand for new aircraft includes 29,700 small aircraft such as the A220 and A320 family, plus around 5,300 in the medium aircraft category which Airbus defines as planes such as the A321XLR and A330neo. Airbus predicts demand for 4,000 deliveries in the large segment, such as the A350.

Cargo aircraft is being driven by e-Commerce, Airbus said, helping to boost the express freight market. Airbus predicts that there will be a need for around 2,440 freighters over the next 20 years, of which 880 will be new build. It forecasts that the general cargo market will grow by 2.7% per year, while the express freight market will expand 4.7%. 

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Airbus said the commercial aviation services market, including maintenance, training, flight operations, dismantling and recycling, was on track at levels it forecast before the pandemic. The market is due to reach a cumulative value of $4.8 trillion in the next 20 years. 

It said the services market was rebounding from a COVID-19 dip, and there would be a need for over 550,000 new pilots and 710,000 highly skilled technicians over the next 20 years.  

Airbus GMF graphic

Image credit: Airbus