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Singapore Airshow is Hot, And it's Not Just the Weather

Shashank Nigam |CEO, SimpliFlying.com
Thursday, 4 Feb 2010 | 3:08 AM ET

It's searing hot at the Singapore Airshow - combine 34 degree celsius temperatures with 85% humidity and you can start to imagine why my shoe soles started to melt on the tarmac.

Asia is a very hot market too, for aviation. There is sea everywhere, so you can't really drive, unlike in the United States. Bus services within most countries are not very well developed; and rail networks only work well within countries, like in India. That means every time you need to go to another country, you're most likely to fly.

Understandably, the region is high on the priority list for the world's largest aircraft manufacturers. So, who's leading?

Round 1 Goes to Boeing

Boeing has historically had a strong foothold in Asia, which was further bolstered by the huge number of 787 and 737 orders. Though the first frame is yet to be delivered, current orders of the 787 stand at 851 frames, a large proportion of which are ordered by Asian airlines like ANA, Japan Airlines, Air India and Etihad Airways. Now, Boeing just needs to fly this bird in the Asian skies.

Round 2 to Airbus

While Boeing was correcting the 787, Airbus already had the A380 flying with leading Asian carriers like Singapore Airlines and Emirates. The recent cost-alliance between AirAsia and Jetstar, two of the largest low cost (LCC) airlines in the region, also puts Airbus in good stead. Both airlines own an all-Airbus fleet and are looking to work with the manufacturer to customize their fleet of over 200 combined aircraft in the future. This is a huge win for Airbus, as Boeing isn't very strong yet in the LCC market in Asia. Airbus has the top-end with the A380; and now the bottom too, with the A320s flown by AirAsia and Jetstar.

Round 3: Bring on the Chinese, Japanese, Brazilians and the Canadians

The future airplane marketplace is a competitive one, hence Airbus and Boeing cannot rest their laurels. Bombardier revealed bold plans on Wednesday, projecting a demand of over 6,000 aircraft for it's new C-Series plane, which competes with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. A large proportion of those orders are expected to come from Asia. I wonder who's going to switch? The legacy airlines? May be not - they're often not very nimble. So it's likely to be the high-growth LCC sector that will capitalize on.

Add to the mix the regional single-aisle jets being developed by the Chinese, Mitsubishi in Japan, Sukhoi in Russia and the renewed Asian focus of Brazil's Embraer, and you have an exciting concoction of planes crowding the Asian skies in the future. Although one thing these newbies will have to look into is providing support and maintenance for their aircraft in Asia. Imagine if a plane needs to fly from Shanghai to Sao Paolo just to get a new wingtip? Probably won't work out.

Asia is indeed a unique market, and the excitement is for all to see at the Singapore Airshow 2010.

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The youngest winner of Global Brand Leadership Award, Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying.com, an award winning blog on airline branding. He tweets at @simpliflying and helps airlines, airports drive revenue and loyalty through social media conversations.

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