North America will continue as one of the world's most important aviation markets during the next two decades, with new jetliner acquisitions driven by increasing air traffic volume particularly on international routes and a need for more efficient, higher-capacity aircraft.
Airbus' Global Market Forecast for 2007-2026 anticipates a North American demand for 6,484 new passenger and freighter aircraft over the 20-year period - composed of 5,210 single-aisle jetliners in the A320 Family category, 1,111 twin-aisle transports in the A330/A340/A350 category, and 163 very large aircraft - which Airbus is addressing with its A380. This represents a market value of $591 billion.
North America is to remain a global leader in overall traffic flow, with the U.S. domestic sector alone accounting for more than 13 per cent of all passenger traffic in 2026.
The growing North American passenger volume has resulted in more flight delays from airport and air traffic congestion. One simple way of helping to alleviate this problem is to increase the size of aircraft rather than scheduling more departures and arrivals. "Airport capacity cannot expand to accommodate growth, and stepping up the frequency of flights is no longer a viable solution," explained Airbus Americas CEO Barry Eccleston. "Therefore, airplanes are going to get bigger."
This is reflected in the augmentation of seating capacity during the past six years amongst larger U.S. network airlines, growing from an average of 148 passengers per aircraft in the second quarter of 2001 to 158 passengers in the first quarter of 2007.
Ageing jetliners will be another factor in North American aircraft acquisitions. While U.S. airline fleets are an average 12 years old - two years more than the rest of the world - nearly 40 per cent of the transports can be classified as either "old" or "mid-generation" aircraft (excluding regional jets).
These airliners are not as economically or ecologically efficient as new-generation jetliners such as the Airbus A320 and A330/A340 families - factors that are increasingly important with rising fuel prices and increasing pressure on the airline industry to curb aircraft-created pollution. According to the Airbus Global Market Forecast, if these older transports were immediately replaced with an equivalent number of new-generation aircraft, it would save approximately five million tonnes of fuel annually and reduce CO2 emissions by 15 million tonnes per year.
Low-cost carriers have proliferated worldwide, and the North American market is no exception. By the third quarter of 2007, U.S. low-cost carriers provided 50 per cent of seats in the top five U.S. interstate markets, including flights within California and Texas, and between New York and Florida. The Airbus Global Market Forecast expects the current low-cost airlines to increase their North American fleet to more than 2,600 aircraft by 2026.
"We believe the low-cost carriers (LCCs) are going to grow much faster than traditional airlines," said Laurent Rouaud, Airbus Vice President of Market Research and Forecasts. "The LLCs in North America are going to grow at a 6 per cent rate annually over the next 10 years - and 4.5 per cent over the second decade of the forecast."
This will create a continued demand for highly reliable and efficient jetliners such as the A320 Family - which has become the product line of choice for such U.S. low-cost operators as Frontier Airlines, jetBlue Airways, Skybus Airlines, Spirit, Ted, USA 3000 and Virgin America.
Read the feature stories on Airbus' Global Market Forecast for the following countries/regions:
Global Market Forecast for Russia
Global Market Forecast for the Nordic countries
Global Market Forecast for Spain
Global Market Forecast for Mexico
Global Market Forecast for Brazil
Global Market Forecast for the Chinese Mainland
Global Market Forecast for Argentina
Global Market Forecast for Central Europe
Global Market Forecast for Germany
See the special Airbus website section with thecomplete 2007-2026 Global Market Forecast