Growing passenger volume will require more efficient, higher-capacity aircraft in all size categories over the coming 20 years, according to Airbus' latest Global Market Forecast - which expects airline traffic worldwide to more than double between 2009 and 2028.
This latest 20-year forecast was unveiled today during a press event in London, England, with Airbus Chief Operating Officer - Customers John Leahy and Laurent Rouaud, Airbus Senior Vice President, Market and Product Strategy.
Airbus projects that some 25,000 new passenger jetliners and freighters will be needed to meet the rising demand for flight services - representing a market value of US$3.1 trillion. These will include very large aircraft such as Airbus' 21st century flagship A380, as well as those of the twin- and single-aisle segments.
As the world's airline fleet expands, it also will gradually increase in aircraft size at an anticipated rate of 1.2 per cent annually over the next 20 years.
"We need bigger aircraft. We can't just pave the sky wingtip-to-wingtip with small airplanes - congestion will not allow that," said Leahy in his briefing to journalists. "We will always be shifting up to larger aircraft."
Very large aircraft - those with seating for more than 400 passengers - will help alleviate congestion at major airports, and accommodate growth on existing routes. There will be a demand for more than 1,700 of these, according to the Global Market Forecast - with some 1,318 needed to serve the world's 37 dynamic "mega" cities (destinations with more than 10,000 daily passengers). Due in part to increased urbanisation, Airbus expects the number of such cities to increase to 82 in the coming 20 years.
"We anticipate that there will be as many as 200 city pairs where very large airplanes such as the A380 are going to fly before 2028," said Rouaud.
According the 2009-2028 Global Market Forecast, the number of new twin-aisle category jetliners and freighters to meet demand is 6,250. Airbus has two families of aircraft capable of addressing this need: its A330/340 Family, covering the small and intermediate twin-aisles; and the future A350 XWB, which will provide an all-encompassing solution to twin-aisle market requirements beginning in 2013.
The continued growth of low-cost carriers - particularly in the Asia-Pacific market - will be a primary driver for nearly 17,000 new single-aisle jetliners during the 2009-2028 period, representing an increase over previous forecasts.
Leahy underscored the significance of low-cost carriers to the overall market. "They're an important part of the economy," he said, citing the airlines' growth in Asia, evolution in the United States and development in Europe.
This emergence of low-cost carriers - coupled with the effect of increased route liberalisation and the accelerating demand from Asia - will support a continued need for highly reliable and efficient single-aisle jetliners such as Airbus' benchmark A320 Family.
Overall, the greatest demand for new passenger aircraft and freighters will be from the Asia-Pacific region - accounting for 31 per cent of the total number, followed by Europe and North America. Individually, India and China will account for the fastest growth over the coming 20 years - at 10 per cent and 7.9 per cent, respectively.
Across all segments, Airbus also foresees a continued trend towards new-generation and efficient aircraft - with these jetliners and freighters enabling operators to increase the number of passengers while reducing overall costs.
See the dedicated section of Airbus' website for the complete Global Market Forecast