An Unforgettable Week in Paris

An iconic destination and hot weather - it must be the week of the Paris Air Show. The biennial aviation fest that brings manufacturers, airlines, suppliers and the great and the good of the aviation industry (although I wasn’t there) together for the largest event of its kind.

Every year records are broken at either Paris or Farnborough as manufacturers seek to outdo each other with new orders or confirmation of orders placed, and Paris did not disappoint!

Gravity Is Moving

Take a step back from the headline orders - which we will come onto later -and Paris 2023 may represent a watershed moment in the commercial aviation industry as India grabs all the headlines, challenging markets such as China, with expected growth in the next few years. Both defying gravity and at the same time shifting network structures as competition increases.

Whilst it’s unlikely that India will triple its market size in the next decade the market has grown twice as fast as China, and whereas China has a rapidly developing high-speed train network that is encouraging modal transfer, in India that is a long way from development, encouraging increasing levels of domestic flights.

 

And of course, the table above reflects the respective market positions through to the end of last year and that takes no account of what has been happening in Paris this week.

Aircraft Orders Galore

Thankfully the aviation industry is now in growth mode with the global pandemic well passed and optimism everywhere, especially in a corner of Le Bourget. In some cases, earlier aircraft orders have been reconfirmed at the air show, primarily for the benefit of PR and photoshoots but also allowing airline CEOs an opportunity to remind manufacturers of the importance to deliver to schedule; something that might be easier to say than do in the coming years. To date, some 1,526 orders have been placed over the last four days making Paris 2023 the busiest event for new orders, eclipsing Farnborough’s 1,464 in 2018.

By virtue of the largest ever aircraft order being placed on Monday for 500 A320 NEO’s by Indigo, Airbus leads the manufacturers' race for first spot with what currently stands at a 65% share and Boeing at a 28% share. Collectively the two manufacturers account for 95% of all orders placed, placing the future supply of new aircraft firmly in the hands of these two suppliers; no pressure there then!

Notable Carriers Missing

Having had their own moments in the headlines, the Paris numbers exclude the Ryanair order placed in early May this year for 150 B737-max, or as Ryanair calls them B737-100s. Similarly, Qantas who ordered both A320 and A220s earlier this year were off cutting a celebratory cake in New York as they launched non-stop services from Auckland, some 972 nautical miles closer to the big apple than Sydney. But even allowing for those notable absences, a feature of the Paris order book is about who is not placing orders.

Aside from a relatively small, but equally for them important order from Binter Canarias for six E195s, there are to date no publicly declared orders from any other European airlines or indeed from any airline in the US market - although some aircraft lessor purchases may be hiding the ultimate destination of some aircraft. Either way, activity from two of the world’s most mature markets is perhaps at its lowest point for many years; airlines from those regions do of course already have orders and delivery schedules in play but it again highlights the shifting market gravity.

Large Saudi Aircraft Orders Looming

There was a huge expectation that Paris would see the announcement of the large aircraft order we expect from Riyadh Air and Saudia for their narrow-bodied fleets, but that remains to be announced. Perhaps too much “noise” around other orders resulted in them keeping the story dry for a show and tell on another day. However, Flynas the up-and-coming low-cost carrier signed on the dotted line for 30 A320 NEOs that will be much needed to support the Vision 2030 targets that are in place. We all now wait with bated breath for the Riyadh Air announcement which may now be a few weeks away given seasonal holidays that will begin shortly.

And finally, showing that the Paris Air Show can squeeze out stories in all sorts of ways, Philippine Airlines announced an order for nine A350s and then proudly announced that they will operate the aircraft in a ten abreast economy configuration which should make for some cozy experiences across the Pacific in the coming years.

Yes, Paris was Paris, with lots of new aircraft orders, plenty of press conferences, probably lots of celebratory champagne and lots of happy sales executives closing deals with their fingers and toes crossed on delivery dates. But pulling away all the glamour, perhaps the most important thing is that the airline industry, despite all its recent challenges, appears to be back and moving forward rapidly….now where are the staff coming from?


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