COVID-19’s impact on the economy has spread far and wide across a variety of industries. The majority of impact has of course been negative, which rings especially true of aerospace. After travel restrictions, capacity regulations, and more, aerospace companies find themselves in a difficult position. After a steady decline, it can be hard to see the path forward.
Innovation to Drive New Opportunities
Commercial air travel and customer order activity are in better shape than earlier post-COVID projections. This is a good sign for the industry. A surge in Delta-variant infections in certain regions may keep demand for travel subdued through early 2022, despite the global distribution of COVID vaccines.
Yet, current macroeconomic conditions point to a recovery in demand for small and medium-sized aircraft. Projections state demand will reach pre-COVID levels in 2022, with manufacturers of narrow-body aircraft well-positioned to benefit from this recovery. With air travel volumes now higher than what was experienced in 2020, aftermarket revenues could rebound in 2022 as air traffic recovers.
With new technologies, evolving business models, and an increase in M&A activity, the shift toward digital and operational efficiencies is likely to accelerate further. Digital threads and smart factories present a host of efficiency- and productivity-enhancing technologies that can reduce cycle times and speed up the time to market. In 2022, firms that focus on innovation are likely to be more prepared.
At some point, the commercial aerospace market will return to its pre-pandemic levels. The question, of course, is when? Global traffic was down about 80% at the worst of last year. Globally, we are now only about 30% below pre-pandemic levels.
The US has only lost about 7% when compared to its pre-pandemic levels. China remains down about 50%, while Europe is down roughly 30%. During Europe’s winter travel season, we anticipated a strong comeback for Europe; however, this new COVID 19 variant has created some uncertainty.
Europe’s comeback could be complicated, and lengthier than initially expected. Currently, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the market. Despite the pandemic, the business jet market has continued to perform well. Recently, the 737 MAX was cleared to fly again after being grounded for safety reasons in China. Both the market and Boeing benefit from this.
Having said all that, we do expect the market to recover, but we expect this recovery to be lumpy because some of these things are unclear. By 2023 or 2024, the hope is to be back to pre-pandemic passenger demand levels.
Aerospace Companies Manufacturing
By the end of 2021, Airbus’ backlog stood at 7,082 aircraft, double what it was at the end of 2020, with 771 new orders (507 net) across all programs.
In total, 64 new orders were placed for A220s, as well as several high-profile commitments. 661 new orders were placed for the A320neo. Airbus won 46 gross new widebody orders, including 30 A330s and 16 A350s, including 11 A350Fs (freighters) which also received additional commitments of 11 aircraft.
Recovery is a long and relatively obscure road. It’s hard to know exactly how things will play out, but signs are pointing in the right direction for recovery. Whether you are a part of the travel industry or manufacturing, 2022 should be looking up. So if you’re on the fence about how aerospace companies will adapt, don’t worry, they are working hard to return everyone to a sense of normalcy.