Pandemic Cuts New-Aircraft Needs 25% Through 2025, Analysts Say
A 40% drop in global revenue passenger miles followed by a rapid snap-back and leveling out of 5% year-over-year growth starting in 2023 would cut near-term new-aircraft demand about 25% from pre-coronavirus pandemic estimates, Vertical Research Partners analysts conclude.
Vertical plugged a 40% traffic decline into its model for 2020, with rebounds of 19% next year and 10% in 2022, the company said in a Mar. 30 research note. Among the outputs: airlines would need 6,300 new aircraft over the next five years, down from its previous forecast of 8,300.
On a percentage basis, the reduction would hit narrowbodies and widebodies equally, reducing demand for each category by about 25%. Vertical’s revised analysis shows airlines would need 1,540 fewer narrowbodies and 380 fewer widebodies.
“A 40% decline in traffic this year would be by far the largest RPM [revenue passenger miles] decline in the history of flight, but that is very close to the 38% decline that IATA is now projecting for 2020,” Vertical wrote.
The delivery declines would come on top of what is expected to be a sharp increase in aircraft retirements. While airlines are only beginning to sort out what their post-pandemic fleets will look like, speculation is that many older and larger models, including Boeing 747s, 757s and 767s and Airbus A380s, will not return from storage. Older A320s and 737 Next Generation airframes could be in a similar position.
“In previous downturns we have seen a spike in old aircraft retirements, and after a period of unusually low retirements in 2018-19, this could occur again,” Vertical said.
Figures compiled by both Aviation Week and Oliver Wyman suggested that retirements were edging up even before the pandemic struck in early 2020. Preliminary figures in the Aviation Week Fleet Data Services database show that 2019 ended a five-year stretch during which total removals averaged 567 per year. The next five years will see annual figures average 1,122—a figure that will surely rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s drag on air travel demand.
Oliver Wyman’s preliminary figures showed retirements in the commercial fleet it tracks topped 700 in 2019, on the heels of three consecutive years of about 500 annually.