Airlines running on empty
With the IATA estimates showing airline revenue down by 50% in 2020 compared with 2019, the industry is expected to record a net loss of $84 billion this year. Understandably, airline industry executives must focus on addressing immediate cash losses and balance sheet demand as well as trying to stimulate passenger demand by ensuring their safety and offering attractive pricing. But recovery to pre-pandemic levels looks some way out. Our research reveals that 40% of aerospace executives believe it will take at least 24 to 36 months for airline revenues to recover and many believe the recovery period may be even longer.
As a result, aircraft delivery deferrals and cancellations are at previously unseen levels. From the levels recorded in March 2020, more than 1500 narrow-body and 228 wide body aircraft have been removed from the delivery schedule covering the next 8 years. Further reductions look likely over the coming months.
The aftermarket too has seen substantial declines as airlines defer overhauls in order to conserve cash. Global MRO spend in 2020 is projected to shrink by between 40% to 60%. One-third of the global fleet is currently grounded. Short-term, this will drive demand for storage as well as out of storage checks and return-to-service maintenance when demand picks up.
Gradual and variable recovery across the regions
While 90% of aerospace executives expect their revenues to decline or at best remain flat over the next 6 months, some recovery (albeit from a much-lowered base) will take place – with the resumption of deliveries from already built and stored 737 MAX aircraft (subject to certification) a key driver.
But the path to operating at pre-pandemic levels looks uncertain and long. In North America, growth is expected to recover in 2021 by 6.5% YoY. However, that remains 31% lower than 2019, and even lower than the levels of growth compared to pre-pandemic levels before the 737MAX was grounded.
In Europe, aerospace demand is expected to fall by 43% in 2020, largely as a result of deferrals of Airbus orders. The YoY decline for the European industry is sharper than in North America and may experience further negative impacts from the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit that could disrupt supply chains.
Relative to the other regions, Asia Pacific presents the likelihood of a faster recovery. While demand is likely to decline 8.2% on 2019 levels, domestic orders for commercial aircraft in China are relatively buoyant.
What’s keeping aerospace executives up at night?
Looking ahead, aerospace executives say their worries about the future are firmly focused on the pandemic and its economic fallout. They are not predicting other issues such as terrorism, regional conflicts or political instability as likely to eclipse their primary concerns over the next 2 years.