Global aircraft fleet to double in next 20 years

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The Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse
The Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse

The number of commercial aircraft operating around the world will double in the next 20 years, Airbus has predicted.

In its latest Global Market Forecast, the European planemaker said that it expects the world’s airlines to need 35,000 additional jet aircraft between now and 2036, valued at US$5.3 trillion.

Many of these will be used to replace existing aircraft, taking the total global aircraft fleet to more than 40,000 jets in 20 years’ time.

This growth is expected to cater for an annual growth in passenger traffic of 4.4% per year over this 20-year period, with Asian countries such as China and India driving this growth.

Airlines in the Asia Pacific region are expected to take 41% of the new deliveries, followed by those in Europe (20%) and North America (16%).

“Air travel is remarkably resilient to external shocks and doubles every 15 years,” said John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer for customers. “Asia Pacific continues to be an engine for growth, with domestic China to become the world’s largest market. Disposable incomes are growing and in emerging economies the number of people taking a flight will nearly triple between now and 2036.”

Of the 35,000 additional aircraft expected to be needed by airlines, more than 34,000 are passenger jets and the remainder are freighters. Over 70% of these new deliveries will be single-aisle jets, such as the Airbus A320neo or Boeing 737 MAX, while the remaining 30% will be twin-aisle aircraft such as the A330neo, A350, 777 or 787 Dreamliner.

The expansion of the global fleet will also require airlines to recruit an additional 530,000 pilots and 550,000 new maintenance engineers by 2036.

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