Airlines more likely to extend life of existing models rather than invest in new designs

The Airbus final assembly line in Tianjin, China.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact upon the commercial aviation industry, with lockdowns and border closures evaporating passenger demand. Stricken by lost passenger revenue, airlines have cancelled outstanding orders and reduced the size of their fleets. Given the depressed state of the commercial aviation industry, both aircraft manufacturers and airlines are more likely to adopt a conservative policy, says data and analytic company GlobalData.

Harry Boneham, associate analyst at GlobalData. (PHOTO: via LinkedIn)

Harry Boneham, aerospace and defence associate analyst at GlobalData, said “manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are unlikely to invest in the development of new platforms in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns the industry has faced. On the other hand, there may be considerations generated by the COVID-19 pandemic that may drive airlines to look to new designs in the medium term. The campaign to reduce the environmental impact of commercial aviation predates the current crisis, with concepts such as flygskam (flight shaming) growing in prominence. However, a campaign to incorporate and accelerate the adoption of green policies in the economic restart following the COVID-19 pandemic has been gathering pace. For instance, in the European Union’s 14 air transport associations have called for decarbonization to be prioritized in post-COVID-19 recovery funding. Among the initiatives suggested is the replacement of older models which are on average 20-25 percent less fuel efficient than newer generations.”

Boneham’s comments came just after The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the International Energy Agency (IEA) to prioritise investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to help power aviation’s contribution to the post-COVID-19 recovery. IATA’s call comes on the eve of the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit which will meet virtually to debate moves toward a low-carbon future. The IEA is well placed to promote SAF production with its stakeholders both in government and in the fuel industry, IATA said.

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