Number of aircraft in the sky to double in next 20 years

Around 47,990 commercial planes will roam the skies by 2037, forecast Airbus

If you thought that air travel cannot get busier, guess again. According to the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the number of operating planes will increase by more than double over the next two decades.

The company’s recently published Global Market Forecast suggests that by 2037, half of the currently used aircraft will be still operating and with around  37,390 new machines, the total amount of planes will be 47,990. The figure is an increase of 123 per cent in comparison to today’s numbers.

Three-quarters of deliveries will be smaller jets such as Airbus A 320, Boeing 737 and other similar types from different manufacturers — Novikov Aleksey / Shutterstock Airbus predicts number of aircraft
Three-quarters of deliveries will be smaller jets such as Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s and other similar types from different manufacturers – Novikov Aleksey / Shutterstock

Airbus also predicts that the majority of new aircraft will be smaller jets with more than 75 per cent of deliveries being Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s or similar types from other manufacturers.

If the 737 is still manufactured in twenty years, the aircraft will have been operating for seven decades in total, which would make it the longest serving plane type in aviation history.

Boeing came out with similar numbers in last year’s prediction. According to the American manufacturer, 29,530 new single-aisle aircraft will operate in 2040.

However, such expansion could cause difficulties for air-traffic control systems which are already overstretched in parts of Europe. This could lead to a significant increase in delays

“On our most likely scenario, there won’t be enough capacity for approximately 1.5 million flights or 160 million passengers in 2040,” said director general of the air-traffic provider, Eurocontrol, Eamonn Brennan.

If Boeing 737 still operated by 20137, it would make it the most enduring plane type in aviation history — Shutterstock Airbus predicts number of aircraft
If the Boeing 737 is still operational by 2037, it would make it the most enduring plane in aviation history – Shutterstock

“Many airports will become much busier, with higher delays. By 2040, 16 airports will be highly congested operating at close to capacity for much of the day, up from six airports today.

“As a result of this congestion the number of passengers delayed by between one and two hours will grow from around 50,000 each day now to around 470,000 a day in 2040.”

Environmental activists are alarmed by the influx as well. The Green Party has called for mandatory warnings on all advertisements for air travel.

“These warnings would include information about the effects of climate change and details of the carbon dioxide emissions of the flights advertised.”

The manufacturers oppose the idea saying that aviation contributes only about 2 per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions.