The Middle East will be one of the key markets in the world to see its share of widebody aircraft rising sharply over the next three years along with Asia Pacific.
This region's airlines will add 28 widebodies to their existing fleet in 2010, falling to 18 next year, and then surge to 35 widebodies in 2012 and 43 in 2013, according to the latest statistics released by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa).
Middle East airlines currently operate 447 widebodies, or just over 10 per cent of the worldwide widebody fleet, as per the Capa data, but the 2013 delivery plan is about 17 per cent of total scheduled deliveries worldwide that year.
Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways account for a chunk of widebody aircraft in the Middle East.
While Emirates, with an all-widebody aircraft fleet leads the way with 145 aircraft (138 passenger aircraft and seven freighters) at present, Etihad has 53 aircraft flying across its network of 60 destinations.
The Dubai carrier, with the largest order for the Airbus A380 (58 in total), already has six superjumbos in its fleet network and the carrier is expected to receive four more this year.
Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, meanwhile, took delivery of 11 aircraft in all during the course of last year, and will introduce the Boeing 787s (Boeing's answer to the A350 XWB-extra wide body) and Airbus A380s over the next three to five years, the airline's Chief Executive, James Hogan recently told Emirates Business.
"We have 35 firm orders for the 787s and 10 firm orders for the A380s. We have not changed any of these orders," Hogan said. About, 193 widebody aircraft are scheduled for delivery worldwide in 2010, rising to 254 in 2011 before peaking in 2012 at 293 and easing to 250 in 2013, said Capa.
It said: "With a little good fortune and some good judgement, this growth sequence may match the tone of the hoped-for economic recovery. But, unless the rate of recovery is faster than current predictions, the likelihood remains of a lot of capacity washing around the system – and an obvious impact on restraining yields."
While the Middle East's airlines are fast growing their widebody fleet, the Asia-Pacific region is powering ahead as the world's largest market for widebody aircraft, with some 82 widebodies scheduled for delivery to the region's airlines in 2010, according to the Capa study.
It adds that this number will jump to 141 aircraft in 2011 and peaking to 148 in 2012, based on the Ascend fleet database, which reveals that Asia-Pacific airlines will take delivery of exactly half of the total widebody aircraft deliveries worldwide over the next three years – well above their current status of operating one third of the world's widebodies.
"This speaks volumes about the expanding role of Asia-Pacific airlines in global long-haul aviation," said Capa. Europe is expected to take over from North America as the second-largest widebody market by the end of 2011. The study said that as US airlines continue to wind back operations, Europe will probably overtake North America as the second-biggest widebody market (behind Asia Pacific) by the end of next year.
As per the Capa study, European airlines are scheduled to take delivery of 50 widebodies this year and 53 next, compared to just 21 and 18 for North American carriers in 2010 and 2011, respectively. "These trends have widespread implications for airline financing/leasing sector, as well as airport revenues, affecting everything," said the Capa study.
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