North American fleets set for ‘dramatic change’

Flat aircraft demand and changes in carrier behaviour set to reshape the market.

The fleet composition of North American airlines will undergo a significant upheaval in the next decade, an industry analyst has claimed.

In addition, the total fleet size will actually decrease, with the number of retirements outstripping demand for new aircraft, according to Brian Kough, senior director, forecasts & aerospace insights, Aviation Week Network.

Kough, presenting data from the company’s Fleet Discovery tool at the inaugural TakeOff conference, outlined the discrepancy between overall global growth, and a real-terms retraction in the North American market.

“The rest of the world is in a growth pattern,” said Kough. “All of the deliveries in North America are almost exclusively replacements.”

In total, Kough’s predictions show that 4,700 aircraft will be delivered in North America by 2028 vs 23,200 worldwide. However 4,800 will be retired in the same time period, against just 11,900 worldwide.

“North America is home to the most profitable carriers in the world, but we are facing headwinds on these profits,” added Kough. “The US labour force is growing at its slowest rate ever.”

Deliveries and retirements in North America 2019-28

Overall in 2028 there will be 9,220 aircraft in service in North America, down from 9,370 in 2019.

Although the overall number of aircraft will remain flat, there will be major changes in the composition of fleets, the Aviation Week data demonstrated.

Currently narrowbody aircraft account for 49 percent of fleets, which will rise to 60 percent by 2028, according to the predictions. The biggest fallers will be turboprops (14 percent to 9 percent) and regional jets (22 percent to 15 percent) to account for this change.

Over the next decade the 737 MAX-8 jets will account for 1,092 deliveries; almost double the next highest aircraft class, with 576 A321NEO aircraft expected to be added. Conversely, 737-700s lead the retirements.

By 2028 the 737 MAX-8 will be the most common aircraft type, accounting for 13 per cent of the total North American fleet.

North America in-service fleet