Aircraft numbers may double by 2026
Airbus is warning that more runways are needed to accommodate a doubling of the
global aircraft fleet by 2026. The European planemaker predicted that over 28,500
passenger and freight aircraft would be flying in less than two decades’ time
– more than double the current total of 13,284.
Britain will be the third largest customer for new aircraft, Airbus said, with
1,100 jets to be added to aviation infrastructure that is already under severe
Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, Britain’s largest airports, operate at near capacity
and the government is consulting over proposals to build a third runway at Heathrow
Airbus refused to be drawn on the proposed expansion at Britain’s biggest flight
hub but admitted more runways would be needed to meet its forecasts. Laurent Rouad,
a research executive at Airbus, said: “There is a physical limit. We need more
capacity in airports, higher capacity airplanes and greater frequency of flights.
And then we need to balance all three.”
Ruth Kelly, transport secretary, has warned that failure to expand Heathrow would
damage the economy and would have no impact on global warming because the air
traffic would simply move to continental Europe.
The Airbus global forecast adds 1,600 aircraft to the previous 20-year estimate,
despite fears that the softening US economy and high oil prices will hurt demand
for air travel over the next year.
The company, based in Toulouse, said soaring fuel costs had caused the upwards
revision because airlines would accelerate replacement of older aircraft, which
consume expensive fuel more voraciously than newer models.
Airbus moved to head off the inevitable green backlash against its latest predictions
by stating that 9 out of 10 planes now flying would be decommissioned by 2026.
The replacement jets will include 1,700 aircraft of a similar scale to the company’s
A380 superjet, which carries hundreds more passengers and burns 20% less fuel
than its predecessors. However, the company said aviation’s contribution to global
carbon dioxide emissions would grow from 2% to 3% over the period [ to 2026 ]
– a figure disputed by environmental groups, which say it will be even higher.
Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said fuel consumption targets – such as the 50% reduction by 2050 suggested
by some Boeing executives – must be brought forward by several decades.
“Even allowing for the incremental efficiency gains that new aircraft are going
to bring the global fleet, we are still talking about a near-doubling of carbon-dioxide
emissions by 2026. Therefore, the targets that manufacturers are setting need
to be radically different,” he said.
Airbus and Boeing, which are neck-and-neck in the aircraft manufacturing race,
argue that producing a significant change in aviation technology within a decade
is financially and logistically impossible. For instance, Boeing is hoping that
the next generation of aircraft after its new 787 Dreamliner, which has yet to
enter commercial service, will produce 15% less carbon dioxide than its latest
highly fuel-efficient model but those jets will not enter production until 2015
at the earliest.
Airbus also raised the prospect of aircraft being powered by alternative fuels
by 2026. The debate over the environmental merits of biofuels has become increasingly
heated, while there are doubts over the ability of biofuel producers to meet the
aviation industry’s needs.
According to one estimate, if the entire land mass of Florida was given over
to producing plants for use in biofuels, the end result would cover the annual
fuel needs of just 10% of the US domestic aviation industry. National Express,
the rail and coach group, has pulled out of a biofuel trial amid fears that it
was doing more harm than good to the environment.
Demand takes off
The biggest demand for aircraft in the next 20 years, Airbus says, will come
from the US and China.
US airlines, emerging from a post-9/11 slump, will spend $500bn ( £250bn) on 5,800
new planes and China will order 3,000 more by 2026.
Low-cost airlines will acquire about a third of the aircraft bought worldwide,
it said, with flag carriers such as British Airways and Australia’s Qantas buying
The 550-seat Airbus A380 looms large over the industry but Airbus expects the
biggest seller to be the single-aisle jets used on short-haul routes.
of 4.9% a year, almost trebling over the next two decades.
be ordered between now and 2026.
last global market forecast.
orders, followed by North America.
development and generating wealth around the world,” said Airbus chief operating
officer John Leahy.
by providing the most technologically advanced products.”
affecting its flagship jumbo A380, the world’s largest passenger plane which made
its first commercial flight late in 2007.
it had beaten its US rival on deliveries.
However, Airbus delivered 453 aircraft compared with Boeing’s 441.
will create more demand for aircraft that seat more than 400 passengers.
16,600 between now and 2026, according to Airbus forecasts.
Britain will need 1,100 new airliners over the next 20 years as demand for air
travel continues to soar regardless of environmental concerns, according to an
Heathrow will become the world’s number one airport for the double-deck superjumbo
A380, with at least 90 flights a day by 2020.
Only the United States and China will order more aircraft than Britain, where
the average number of flights per person per year will double from four to eight
over the next 15-20 years.
Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, said that the number of airliners
in service with more than 100 seats would increase globally from 14,980 to nearly
33,000 by 2026. It said that no other European country would match Britain’s growth
in demand for flights.
Airbus predicted that the trend of worldwide air travel doubling every 15 years
would continue. It also assumed that rules would be introduced requiring airlines
to purchase permits to cover any increase in carbon dioxide emissions. It predicts
that the world’s airlines will order 24,300 new aircraft by 2026. Most of the
growth will be Asia and the Middle East, with air travel in China and India forecast
to expand by more than 11 per cent a year for the next four years.
Jeff Gazzard, of the Greenskies Alliance, said: "Airbus and other manufacturers are fuelling
the Chinese and Indian markets but these countries must not get locked into the
same high-carbon habits as we have."