The Asia-Pacific region will continue as an important market over the long term, with forecasted airline traffic growth driving the requirements for larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and the A350 XWB Family.
Speaking to reporters at this week's Singapore Airshow, Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders said the upswing in Asian passenger volume - plus the concentration of operations at key hub cities - will create a demand for jetliners in the A350 and A380 size categories.
"We have to make the most of new technology to support such essential growth through the use of larger, more efficient aircraft," Enders said. "That's why in the next 20 years, we expect 39 per cent of twin-aisles such as the A350 XWB Family to be concentrated here in Asia-Pacific, along with 56 per cent of large aircraft like the A380."
He noted that more than 50 per cent of passengers flying within Asia today are travelling between just 11 hub cities, which are also at the centre of 72 per cent of the demand between Europe and Asia. Routes such as Beijing-Shanghai already are operating at 85 per cent load factors, and are expecting further strong growth.
These developments underscore the importance of A380s and A350s as the region's airlines evolve, Enders added, a fact reflected by orders already booked for these two new aircraft by Asia-Pacific carriers.
Singapore Airlines successfully introduced the A380 in revenue airline service last October, and the carrier should have a total of six of the double-deck aircraft by this summer - when Airbus also will be delivering the first A380s to Qantas and Emirates.
The A380 has garnered a total of 196 firm orders from 17 customers, plus four additional commitments, having regained momentum in the latter part of last year with Emirates' repeat order, along with new orders/commitments from such important customers as British Airways and Grupo Marsans in Argentina, Enders explained.
The A350 XWB also is selling well, with 310 firm orders from 15 customers - including Singapore Airlines, which demonstrated its confidence by acquiring 20 of these jetliners.
Enders added that Asia currently accounts for one-third of Airbus' overall backlog of some 3,600 aircraft. As the result of this strong order book, Airbus production capacity is filled for the next six years at unprecedented delivery rates - with its output increasing from the current average of 41 aircraft per month to 54 monthly in 2010 (with the mix composed of 40 A320 Family aircraft, 10 A330/A340s and 4 A380s).
"I am often asked whether this [airline industry] boom is just a bubble or if it is going to continue, and my response is always the same: many of these orders are coming from the booming Asian market, which continues to grow in line with its economic growth," Enders told the reporters. "While the world's annual average traffic growth is estimated at 4.9 per cent, Asia is continuing to lead with a forecast growth of 6.1 per cent annually over the next 20 years. China alone is counting for 7.4 per cent, and India for 8 per cent. And in 20 years time, the Asian market will be leading, accounting for about one third of the world's revenue passenger kilometres."