A move toward larger narrowbodies, massive airline refleeting programs in the U.S. and the prospect that the / duopoly may finally be broken are all expected to occur in the coming decade, says Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman and CEO of Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
In the next 10 years, it will become apparent if the Airbus/Boeing duopoly can remain in its current form, especially with challengers already emerging in China and Russia, said the industry veteran during a panel discussion at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading Asia conference in Singapore.
“I think there is a little bit complacency” among Airbus and Boeing, noted Udvar-Hazy, adding that extra competition will be good for the industry.
He also sees the trend in narrowbodies moving to larger-capacity aircraft, due primarily to infrastructure constraints, such as too few gates at airports and air traffic control limitations. As a consequence, some airlines that are operating Airbusand -800s today will shift to A321s and 737-900s, adds ALC’s top executive.
As for the U.S. market, Udvar-Hazy said, “We’re looking at massive aircraft replacement” and that some U.S. carriers, such as, are already working on plans to replace aging fleets of Boeing MD-80s, and older -400s ... I think the [U.S.] airlines will lean on the aircraft leasing community” to help modernize their fleets.”
Jeff Knittel, president of transportation finance at CIT, on the same panel, said that while several new aircraft leasing companies have emerged in the past few years there will be some consolidation.
As a lessor, “you need to have some technical understanding [of aircraft] and an understanding of the airline business, and an ability to borrow,” said Knittel, adding that those lessors that are unable to raise large sums of capital will eventually have to merge or close.
Knittel also noted that some older aircraft currently are under-valued. “If interest rates go up, then older aircraft will be in a better position,” he said. “Also, if fuel prices come down, then that puts older aircraft in a better position as well,” he added.
During the panel discussion, Robert Martin, managing director of BOC Aviation, said current inflight entertainment (IFE) systems will soon become outdated and will disappear thanks to the advent of wireless technology and the use of personal portable entertainment devices by passengers. “That is a trend to watch out for,” he said, adding that “as soon as we can get these [seat-back, built-in] IFE systems taken off aircraft, the better. If we can take these IFE systems off the planes, imagine the weight savings, fuel savings and maintenance savings.”