Global Commercial Passenger Aircraft Fleet to Nearly Double by 2042

According to aircraft lessor Avolon’s World Fleet Forecast, the worldwide commercial passenger aviation fleet will almost double by 2024, growing 94% to 46,880 aircraft. The report noted that this forecast is underpinned by sustained growth in demand for air travel, particularly building on the industry’s recovery since the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Avolon estimates that more than $4 trillion will be required to finance the 44,300 new passenger commercial aircraft to be delivered over the next 20 years, providing a considerable opportunity for lessors to partner with airlines globally to finance their growth ambitions.

Passenger demand will continue to rise by roughly 3.5% per annum from a 2019 base, but the pace of expansion will be lower than the 5% to 6% of the previous 20 years due to reduced potential for further deregulation to drive growth and higher fares because of aircraft supply shortages and increasing sustainability levies. The biggest growth driver will be new middle-class consumers, particularly in India, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Aviation is confronting the challenge of decoupling growth from environmental impact. Trillions of dollars of new investment will be required to fund the required transition to new-technology, lower emissions aircraft, to ramp up the supply of sustainable aviation fuel and to explore new designs that pioneer alternative energy sources. According to Avolon, aircraft lessors will play a key role in accelerating fleet renewal, and a growing industry will attract the capital required to hit aviation’s net zero target by 2050.

Key Takeaways

  • The regions expected to experience the biggest increase in travel by 2042 will be India (4.4%), China (3.7%), Asia (5%) and Latin America (4.9%). Mature markets such as North America (2%) and Europe (3.1%) will continue to grow, although at a more moderate rate.
  • According to Avolon, 44,300 new aircraft will be delivered over the forecast period and 21,600 aircraft will exit the passenger fleet through decommissioning at the end of their economic life or freighter conversion.
  • Growth of the narrowbody fleet (112%) will outpace widebody fleet growth (97%), as single-aisle aircraft are able to accommodate more passengers and transcontinental flight distances. Regional jet (11%) and turboprop (36%) growth will be more modest.
  • The global fleet will have transitioned to largely (95%) new-technology, fuel-efficient aircraft by the end of the forecast period.
  • Airbus is set to maintain its strong market position in the narrowbody segment, accounting for 58% of the global narrowbody fleet in 2042 compared to 53% currently.
  • Boeing will maintain its 59% share leadership of the widebody segment, with the resumption of 787 deliveries a key driver.
  • Current supply constraints will continue into the second half of the decade, increasing the value of booked production slots and aircraft that have already been delivered. Airlines that have not secured sufficient capacity will rely on lessors for new and used aircraft.

“The human desire to connect with friends and family and to do business remains undiminished, as shown by the post-pandemic recovery in air travel,” Andy Cronin, CEO of Avolon, said. “Emerging markets and their growing middle class underpin our forecast for continued expansion of the global fleet. Near-term production constraints will remain a feature and will reward those who have secured their orderbook pipeline. The resilience aviation has shown, and its anticipated long-term growth trend, reaffirms the investment case for aircraft as an asset class.”

“Whilst the pace of growth in demand for travel will moderate, increasing GDP per capita will drive the global fleet to nearly double by 2042,” Jim Morrison, chief risk officer of Avolon and co-author of the report, said. “Delivering on sustainability commitments is an imperative to secure aviation’s continued growth. Fleet renewal, scaling sustainable aviation fuel production and the development of transformational new aircraft designs will be capital intensive. Lessors will play a critical role in the industry’s future success and net zero transition.”

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