Stock - Guillaume Faury Airbus
“We think there is a path to normality, but it is probably going to be a different normality,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The challenge for the aviation industry is clear - win back the two years of lost passenger growth grounded by COVID-19 and its variants. The CEO of Airbus there is enough happening now in the skies to lead a recovery, even a strong one.

“We've seen some good acceleration recently on long-distance flights with the re-opening of the US for vaccinated people – it was a very important decision from the Biden administration,” said Guillaume Faury, who also heads the French aerospace industry body GIFAS.

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Middle East airlines will have heavy demand for these aircraft and more.

“In spite of all these unexpected situations and the relapse of the pandemic, the general trend is recovery,” said Faury. “We think there is a path to normality, but it is probably going to be a different normality.”

Airbus, which expects passenger numbers to return to pre-COVID levels between 2023 and 2025, said recent lifting of restrictions was bringing back long-haul travel - which is the all too important requirement for airlines’ longer term recover.

Early take-off

The aviation industry chief said that some sectors within aviation and aerospace were resilient to the pandemic. “The business jet crisis has not been as deep as for commercial aviation – there have been some long-term benefits for business aviation with Covid disrupting global air connectivity,” said Faury. “Defense and space have by far been less impacted by COVID and the disruptions were mainly on the supply side more than on the demand.”

Yet to recover

Several companies in the aircraft supply chain, however, were yet to shake off the pandemic. “With long lead times and orders placed for the long term, we are less directly impacted,” said Faury. “But, we see all suppliers and the supply chain in general facing the same kind of challenges. So, we are helping them - we organize (and) to try to resolve problems before they become shortages and disruptions.

“We see that the transport by sea is also more challenging - the time it takes to carry goods from one place to another one is longer and also less predictable.”

Middle East skies

According to Airbus, airlines operating in the Middle East region will require 3,020 new passenger and freight aircraft deliveries by 2040. This will bring the total fleet to 3,210 from a 2019 fleet baseline of 1,300 aircraft.

During this period, the fleet in the region will transition to new0generation types such as the A220, A320neo family, A330neo and A350 bringing significant efficiency improvement and a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions per passenger, said Airbus.

Airbus expects air traffic in the region to achieve full recovery between late 2022 and mid-2024. Globally, cargo is already operating today at 9 per cent above pre-crisis levels, and in the Middle East at 18 per cent.

“This strong recovery is due to the region’s strategic location as a vital economic, business and cultural connector between the East and the West,” said Airbus in a statement. “Government vision and strategic investment plans position aviation at the forefront of long-term planning in the Middle East.”

The European plane-maker also noted that five of the world’s largest aviation cities were located in the Middle East, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and serving more than 10,000 long-haul passengers per day. Six more cities will grow past this threshold in the next 20 years, including Dammam, Muscat and Kuwait City