x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Aircraft demand to soar in Middle East as orders expected to hit $470bn

Middle East airlines will acquire 2,370 new airplanes worth an estimated US$470 billion over the next 20 years, according to a market forecast from Boeing.

Long-range, twin-aisle aircraft are forecast to lead the order books of the region's leading carriers such as Qatar Airways. Lefteris Pitarakisn / AP Photo
Long-range, twin-aisle aircraft are forecast to lead the order books of the region's leading carriers such as Qatar Airways. Lefteris Pitarakisn / AP Photo

Middle East airlines will acquire 2,370 new airliners, worth an estimated US$470 billion (Dh1.72 trillion), over the next 20 years, according to a market forecast from Boeing.

A new survey by the US plane maker shows that long-range, twin-aisle aircraft - such as Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A330 - will lead the Middle East's order books, reflecting the global priorities of the region's leading carriers, Etihad Airways, Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways.

It forecasts that from this year through 2031, 730 aircraft, equivalent to 31 per cent of the region's fleet, will be bought to replace current aircraft. The remaining purchases will be driven by the rapid growth of air travel in the region.

The forecast comes after Boeing and Airbus said carriers would need to start turning to the capital markets to buy aircraft as demand for financing will exceed US$100 billion next year for the first time, while traditional funding sources decline.

Aircraft makers may also have to step up their own funding for customers.

"The scope of changes, along with a sentiment of uncertainty, will pressure manufacturers to provide backstop financing for future deliveries," Boeing said in a report looking at the financing market over the next five years.

Delivery financing will rise to $104bn next year from $95bn this year, said Kostya Zolotusky, the managing director at Boeing Capital Markets. The figure will rise to $132bn in 2017.

However, a bond deal to finance Airbus A380s for Emirates has opened the door to more capital markets arrangements, said Mr Zolotusky.

The Airbus parent company, EADS, also envisages a "significant increase" in export credit financing costs, Harald Wilhelm, the company's chief financial officer, told investors yesterday. Airlines in the Middle East currently have a backlog of 882 aircraft awaiting delivery, 62 per cent of which are long-haul, twin-aisle and large models.

"The Middle East has consistently outperformed the global aviation market over the past few years, achieving traffic growth well above the world average," said Randy Tinseth, the vice president of marketing at Boeing's commercial division.

"As the region's leading carriers continue their global expansion plans we are seeing demand for new, efficient, long-haul aircraft capable of connecting their hubs with any city in the world. The region's carriers have significantly more long-haul capacity than airlines in other regions, including Europe and Asia."

According to the Boeing forecast, twin-aisle aircraft will account for 46 per cent of the region's demand for new aircraft deliveries over the 20 year period, compared with 23 per cent globally.

Single-aisle airplanes, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, will account for 45 per cent of regional deliveries, while large airplanes such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 will account for 8 per cent of orders. Regional jets are expected to account for the remaining 1 per cent.

Globally, Boeing predicted a long-term demand for 34,000 new aircraft valued at $4.5tn.

"These new aircraft will replace older, less efficient aircraft, benefiting airlines and passengers and stimulating growth in emerging markets and innovation in airline business models," said the survey.

As of October, Boeing had a backlog of 4,234 aircraft, of which 337 have been ordered by customers in the Middle East. Forty-four customers in the region currently operate 476 Boeing planes.

"The Middle East's continued success can largely be attributed to the strong business fundamentals of its airlines and their ability to successfully leverage natural geographic advantages," said Mr Tinseth.

"We are confident that our range of market-driving products and solutions will continue to play a critical role in meeting the rapidly growing needs of the region's aviation industry."

dblack@thenational.ae