As airlines start rebuilding their fleets and networks, they will do so at the lowest risk possible; thus, they will be using smaller aircraft. That may not translate into new orders soon since few airlines have the resources to fund them. But the harm to the existing backlog should be smaller. And when the airline industry has recovered financially, it is likely to use more aircraft such as the A220 that combine low unit costs with low trip costs. Airbus so far has received 642 firm orders for the type, and 115 aircraft have been delivered. Credit: Airbus
Like the Airbus A220, the Embraer E2 seems to be well-suited to play a role in the resumption of air travel. The installed base is small, however, and so is the order backlog. Its upside potential comes more from how the competitive landscape has changed. Mitsubishi has purchased Bombardier’s CRJ program, and production will cease next year. The Mitsubishi SpaceJet program is itself shelved, particularly the scope-compliant M100. That could lead to additional demand for the Embraer 175-E1 in due course and for the E2 in markets outside the U.S. as airlines begin to seek replacements for aging fleets. Credit: Jens Flottau/AW&ST
The long-range version of the A321neo was selling well before the pandemic: More than 450 firm orders were placed in a relatively short period of time. Like the A220 in the short-haul market, the A321XLR could benefit from airlines’ low-risk approach to rebuilding long-haul networks. When it was launched, it was mainly seen as a tool for secondary-to-secondary airport markets. But when it comes into service in 2023, it will be just in time for the rebuilding of long-haul travel and could see a temporary role in primary markets, too. Credit: Airbus
Although it will take a long time for the widebody market to recover, the A350-900 is likely to be one of the types that will see a return of demand the soonest within that segment. It has low unit costs, but equally important, it is also not too big for what is expected to be a segment in which lower passenger volumes will prevail. Airbus has sold 760 of the type, and 323 are in service. By contrast, the larger A350-1000 may be difficult to sell for a much longer time. Credit: Jens Flottau/AW&ST
Boeing continues to face major challenges in two of its three main commercial aircraft programs, the 777X and the 737 MAX. The company is also reducing production rates of the 787, but it looks as if the aircraft—a smaller model than many previous long-haul types—could recover sooner than others. Airlines and lessors have ordered 1,512 of the 787s so far, and 972 have been delivered. Credit: Boeing
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing airline fleet planning fundamentally. Some older models such as the Airbus A340 or the Boeing 747 are being retired as passenger aircraft, yet others will survive and be used to rebuild air travel once demand comes back. Here is an overview of likely candidates.