Airlines have placed orders for nearly 1,200 new aircraft in the first five months of the year, underscoring resurgent demand from the industry as passenger traffic continues to pick up in the wake of the pandemic.
The numbers were bolstered by three high-profile deals, including Air India’s announcement in February to buy 470 single-aisle widebody and long-haul jets from Airbus and Boeing, according to research from aviation consultancy IBA. The total number of orders up to the end of May – including options – was 1,198.
The large order intake underscores how quickly airline demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels. The International Air Transport Association, an industry association, said this week that domestic travel had returned to pre-pandemic levels and total passenger traffic grew 46 percent year-on-year in April, led by airlines in the Asia-Pacific region.
Demand for aircraft was fueled by ongoing industry-wide capacity constraints, which increased available delivery slots for the most popular models by the end of the decade. Airbus and Boeing, along with engine manufacturers, have struggled to meet ambitious delivery targets amid parts shortages since the height of the pandemic.
“Airlines are scrambling to regain capacity, retrieve stored aircraft and order new ones. They all like to be at the front of the queue for deliveries,” said William McClintock, market analysis manager at IBA.
Net orders, after taking into account cancellations, were 1,592 in 2022 – nearly double the 812 orders placed in 2019, the year before the Covid pandemic brought air traffic to a virtual standstill, according to data from IBA.
The bulk of net orders, 1,436, were for single-aisle aircraft, particularly Airbus’ best-selling A320 jets. Net orders for wide-body aircraft used on long-haul international routes were 156, up slightly from 148 in 2019.
The broad-body recovery “looks sustainable now,” McClintock said. “Before the pandemic, delivery rates were higher than orders and it didn’t look sustainable.”
The balance between supply and demand in the sector is expected to remain unbalanced for some time to come, with executives warning that supply problems will persist into at least next year.
Boeing CEO David Calhoun warned Friday that progress in resolving the industry’s supply chain problems has been “frustratingly slow.”
“We have to be smart about the supply against that spike in demand, which is quite large,” Calhoun said at a Bernstein conference in New York. “On the other hand, in the supply chain, it’s just frustratingly slow to ease restrictions.”
While Boeing had seen improvements in some areas of its supply chain, Calhoun said the ability of both the US group and Airbus to meet customer demand will still be limited five years from now.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said last month that the supply chain crisis gripping the industry could last into next year.