October 28, 2013
Skyrocketing numbers of narrowbody aircraft orders have turned attention to Southeast Asia—and its burgeoning low-cost carriers (LCC), in particular. Twenty-seven percent of the world's narrowbody aircraft—half the global fleet—are operated in the Asia-Pacific region, estimated Lufthansa Technik Philippines in the first quarter of fiscal 2013. More than 37% of the total commercial fleet will soon be based there, many of them in service with low-cost carriers (LCC), it also projects.
Such statistics and the aircraft orders supporting them have brought these LCCs prominence on the global stage. The Wall Street Journal noted in late August that Indonesia's Lion Air was “little known internationally until it surprised the industry last year with record-setting orders.” The airline signed commitments for 230 Boeing 737s in February 2012 and for 234 Airbus A320s in March 2013. But Lion Air is hardly the only carrier in the region making notable additions: AirAsia, the world's largest operator of A320s, ordered 100 more in December 2012, on top of the 200 it secured in 2011. And Jetstar Airways, part of the Qantas Group, will have access to its parent company's order for 110 A320s, including 78 A320neos, in addition to the 14 Boeing 787s it expects to receive soon.
Beyond these carriers, Cebu Pacific Air has more than 50 A320-family aircraft on order and TigerAir has signed for 20 A320s.
This run on the orderbooks reflects projected growth in air travel. The Asia-Pacific region stands to see that demand grow 6.4% annually through 2031, according to Bloomberg News projections. Lion Air CEO Rusdi Kirana says in Indonesia specifically he expects a 20% growth in traffic this year.
Those increases in demand and aircraft numbers mean airlines and independent MRO providers alike must figure out how to absorb them. Where will all those aircraft go? As deliveries roll out, maintenance organizations must propose attractive solutions.
As a Singapore Airlines Engineering Co. (Siaec) spokesperson puts it, “The positive outlook for air-traffic demand, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where the LCC market will continue to grow and fuel the traffic growth, and its buoyant fleet-renewal market, has the attention of most MROs in the region.” In other words, a big new fleet is ripe for the capturing.