Aircraft order books stabilise with recovery prospects remaining fragile


The month of April saw the overall order backlog of commercial aircraft begin to stabilise as customers placed 73 new orders, of which 68 are single aisle aircraft and five for widebodies, according to information just released by ADS, the UK trade organisation representing the Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors.

The backlog is now 1,000 aircraft below the level of April 2020, when the Covid-19 crisis had a severe impact on international demand for aviation, new aircraft, and repair and maintenance.

The more than 12,800 aircraft on global order books represent many years’ production at current rates, with manufacturers now beginning to set out plans for the coming years in restoring production rates that were cut by around one third due to the crisis.

The international aviation outlook remains fragile given the tentative first steps and a limited return to international travel. UK flight volumes at the end of May are more than 75 per cent below pre-crisis levels, and volumes across Europe are around 60 per cent lower compared to 2019 figures. In the United States, traveller numbers recorded at airports in recent days stand at 25 per cent to 30 per cent below 2019, driven by domestic travel.

A full recovery for aerospace manufacturers, and for aircraft maintenance and repair businesses, will be possible only when more key routes, including across Europe and between the UK and US, are opened to passengers without the need for substantial quarantine periods.

ADS Chief Executive Kevin Craven said: “As vaccination programmes advance, the global aviation industry is seeing domestic routes in major markets recover more quickly, while tentative steps are being taken to restore international travel.

“Demand remains severely suppressed compared to pre-crisis levels, and the situation continues to be extremely challenging for aerospace manufacturers in the UK and overseas. It will be a long road to recovery, and expectations for the months ahead should be cautious until more major travel routes are fully reopened.

“We urge the Government to make progress in the coming weeks on adding key destinations to the UK’s green list for travel, cutting the cost of testing for passengers, and creating a clear pathway for internationally recognised COVID certification.”