Airbus on Wednesday revised up forecasts for jetliner demand in the next 20 years led by growth in the new industrial hubs of Asia, while voicing alarm over rising protectionism.
The European manu, revising an annual 20-year forecast that sheds light on economic trends across the globe, predicted the world’s fleet would more than double to 47,680 jets by 2038.
That is slightly smaller than the future fleet Airbus had anticipated in a comparable forecast one year ago, as airlines squeeze extra productivity out of their aircraft by adding more and slimmer seats or using them for longer periods of the day.
But the demand for new jets needed to reach that total has been revised upwards because Airbus believes airlines will replace a greater proportion of aircraft than previously anticipated, mainly to take advantage of extra fuel savings.
Airbus said it now expects airlines and leasing companies to take delivery of 39,210 new passenger jets and freighters over the next two decades compared to 37,389 previously forecast.
Airbus expects 36% of these new deliveries to replace existing aircraft with the rest slated to meet growth in demand, with traffic expected roughly to double over the next 15 years.
A year ago, Airbus had predicted that just 29% of future deliveries would be replacing existing jets.
Airbus however trimmed its forecast for average traffic growth to 4.3% a year from 4.4% in its previous report.
Recent airline industry statistics suggest traffic is growing but at a slower rate this year amid trade tensions.
Growth continues to be dominated by Asia, where traffic is due to treble over the next 20 years. China’s domestic market is expected to leapfrog the United States and Western Europe to become the largest aviation hub, while India and new manufacturing markets like Vietnam are growing the fastest.
But the industry also faces a squall of new pressures from trade tensions, the partial unwinding of globalization and an anti-flying campaign from climate activists, notably in Europe.
“Increased protectionism and other geopolitical risks remain a concern,” Airbus said in its Global Market Forecast.
Adding to that worry is a weak freight market this year.
Addressing an increasingly vocal debate on emissions, in a week that Swedish teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg pressed the U.S. Congress for action on climate change, Airbus said the industry could still achieve carbon-neutral growth while connecting more people due to more efficient planes.
Environmental groups backing a global “climate strike” say more radical steps are needed to meet such goals.
Airbus revised up its demand forecast for the industry’s most-sold single-aisle jets by 4% to 29,720 planes but cut the medium segment including its A330neo by 2% to 5,370.
It followed U.S. rival Boeing in scrapping separate forecasts for the world’s largest four-engined aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or Boeing 747. Airbus decided in February halt production of the double-decker A380 due to weak demand.
It now includes these aircraft with the largest twin-engined jets, with the resulting combined category up 22% to 4,120 jets.
Airbus raised its 20-year forecast for after-sales services like maintenance, pilot training and cabin upgrades to $4.9 trillion from $4.6 trillion.
Once focused mainly on building and delivering their jets, Airbus, Boeing and other plane manufacturers are stepping up competition with their own suppliers and customers for a slice of this market, which is driven by the size of the global fleet.
Airbus has also predicted the world will need another 550,000 pilots and 640,000 new technicians by 2038.