2019 was a lousy year for commercial aviation. The business was shaken by events such as the China/US trade conflict, Brexit and unrest in Hong Kong, to name but a few. After a second fatal accident involving the Boeing 737 MAX, the type was withdrawn from service across the world. It now looks as if it will only be reintroduced mid-2020. There will be an increasing focus on the environment and the travel business will be under pressure to green up its act. Airlines that have been close to bankruptcy will find it even tougher in 2020.
Yesterday we looked at a few key dynamics that the new year might bring; we continue with more today.
Who’s going to be the winner in sales?
We’re on fairly safe ground in the short/medium haul aircraft prospects. The big fight is between the A321XLR and the 737-MAX. The Airbus will beat the battered Boeing by some distance, but later in the year, some airlines might be tempted to take a gamble on the Boeing, confident that they’ll get a great price and the manufacturer very keen to make up for lost ground.
In the 2020 long-haul race it’s between the 787 and the A350. The MAX problems are holding back development on various Boeing projects; the NMA and the 777x in particular. The Airbus product is building up a healthy reputation. With Boeing recently committing a schoolboy error by sending 787s to Qatar without the proper cabin configuration, the Europeans may well beat the Americans at long-haul as well.
Boeing 777x. Image; airlineratings
Boeing’s reputation has taken a heavy blow, and it’s going to take many years-if ever-that the American manufacturer regains its preeminent role in the production of large commercial aircraft. For Airbus of course, it’s an ill wind that blows good. There will be an appreciable proportion of the public that (rightly or wrongly) won’t choose to fly on a Boeing and the airlines will be aware of this. Like most other aspects of Boeing’s difficulties, this will pass. It’s a matter of how quickly.
Technical advances in reducing weight and improving engine efficiencies have allowed airlines to consider previously impossible routes; the ultra-long-haul flights into Australasia being the extreme examples. Those technical advances were also indirectly responsible for the demise of the A380. The now viable point-to-point routes give more options to airlines than the hub-and spoke model only. What about the major carriers who are heavily invested in the hub and spoke; the most obvious being Emirates, Qatar and Singapore?
Changi Airport, Singapore. Image; departures.com
For sure, they (and others) won’t drop the hub and spoke; the home airports, both existing and planned represent investments of billions of dollars and those won’t be sacrificed. There will still be many millions of people who will transit through Dubai and Changi, because the indirect fares will be cheaper. But we can expect these big carriers to begin approaches to fly fifth, seventh or even ninth freedom (freedoms here) flights in addition to their usual approach, especially on the less competed routes.
So, Accra to Paris on Emirates, anyone?
No doubt other matters will emerge during the course of 2020. Do you think we’ve left any out?