June 16, 2015, Paris Air Show, c. Leeham Co. Dueling forecasts between Airbus and Boeing became a bit of a sideshow yesterday, with the differing projections for the Very Large Aircraft (VLA) market coming up at the Airbus Global Market Forecast press conference and in our interview with Kiran Rao, EVP Marketing and Strategy for Airbus.
John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers, continued to project a 20-year demand for the VLA-Passenger sector at 1,200. Boeing’s forecast for the VLA sector, including freighters, is 540.
Leahy, remaining consistent with his arguments over the last decade or more, said the forecast is based on passenger growth that doubles every 15 years, which will drive congestion at major airports across the globe where new airports can’t be built and new runways are unlikely—such as London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. This will require VLAs to carry the demand.
“Even [Boeing] sees a demand for Very Large Transports,” Leahy said. “We’ve been consistent with our forecast for 20 years, and we are getting there.”
A reporter asked Leahy about the disparities between the two forecasts and suggested Boeing was correct. Leahy asserted Boeing is “wrong” in its forecast.
We asked Rao about this when we interviewed him later in the day.
“The big problem at Boeing is they don’t have a proper VLA,” Rao said, “so of course they are going to say there isn’t a market for it. At the end of the day, if you look at the [Qatar Airways A380 on display] behind me, passengers love the airplane. Airlines who fly the aircraft love it, the way British Airways is operating the aircraft, the way Emirates Airline is operating the aircraft, the way Singapore Airlines operates the aircraft, it’s the perfect airplane from an airline point of view and the passenger point of view.”
Rao said the market will “move on. We all still think of the A380 as a brand new airplane.” It’s been in service since 2007, after a two year delay. “We are getting to 10 years of operation soon, and we toward the end of the decade and we have to look at new opportunities as to how we improve the airplane. The airplane will have a life for another 20 years.
“To look at sale this year or next year or the year before and to say the airplane is finished is far too short-sighted.”
Because the A380 is 10 years after what should have been EIS, considering a re-engining isn’t necessarily unusual today. The Boeing 777-300ER entered service in 2004 and 10 years later, Boeing made the decision to launch the 777X, with a new engine, a new wing and other new features.
Engine technology is advancing, Rao said, at the rate of about 1% per year in reduced fuel consumption. “It’s too early to tell” if a re-engining of the A380 is in the cards “because a lot of studies still have to take place. There’s a lot of interest still in the current generation of the A380. I wouldn’t so much on where the A380neo is going. I’d focus on where the A380 is today.”