Sustainable Energy

Boeing and Airbus to see reduced jet demand as climate awareness grows, UBS says

Key Points
  • Consumers are increasingly factoring in climate concerns when considering taking a flight says UBS.
  • Jet demand could reduce as airlines witness fewer ticket sales.
  • UBS sees biofuels as a main strategy for long-haul travel.
The interior of an American Airlines 737.
Josh Noel | Chicago Tribune | MCT | Getty Images

Rising concern about commercial flying's impact on the environment will act as a brake on passenger growth and reduce jet sales from the likes of Boeing and Airbus, according to a new report from UBS.

A survey of more than 6,000 people has revealed that a growing number of travelers in Europe and America have already reduced the number of flights they took over the last 12 months because of heightened environmental awareness.

Around one in four flyers in France, Germany and the U.S revealed to UBS that they had reduced flights. A smaller number of Brits (16%) admitted that climate change had forced them to forego at least one trip.

Chief author of the report's findings and UBS's Head of European Industrials Equity Research, Celine Fornaro, added in the note Monday that around 27% of respondents were now "thinking about it," when asked if climate worries could affect travel plans.

That figure marked a rise from a similar survey taken by UBS in May which came out at 20%.

Slowing growth and sales

Moves are afoot from European governments to discourage flying. France is to soon introduce a 1.50 euro levy on domestic tickets, rising to 18 euros ($20) on long haul travel.

Germany is to double its taxes for flights originating from Germany from January next year and Switzerland is another country proposing a flight tax.

UBS's model predicts that the upshot of personal concern allied to increased cost will reduce intra-European traffic growth over the next 20 years to 1.5% per year versus the 3% per year currently estimated by Airbus.

Airbus also predicts air traffic within the U.S. will grow 2.1 percent each year through to 2038 but UBS trims that to 1.3% as people look for alternatives to taking a plane.

China is tipped to soon be the world's largest aviation market but while Chinese respondents were not asked, the Swiss bank's researchers put forward the possibility that huge investment in train travel across China will slow the expected boom in flights.

Airbus's most recent forecast says almost 11,000 new small jets will be needed to serve European and U.S. demand over the next two decades, but UBS believes that number should shrink by 7%.

The bank says that in Airbus' case that could mean a reduction in revenue of almost 3 billion euros each year.

Future options

Around three-quarters of respondents said they would be happy to fly in an electric or hybrid plane but only one in four said they would feel comfortable in a smaller self-piloted aircraft as a means of travel.

A partially-electric regional plane is predicted by some in the industry to be around ten years away, but UBS believe battery technology may not develop to the point that can power larger craft.

The researchers consider alternative biofuels as the most realistic option for long haul flights and noted efforts by California and Oregon to set new rules on carbon fuel standards for the transport sector.

UBS noted however that while "alternative fuels" generate fewer emissions while being produced, once in the sky they emit similar levels of CO2 to traditional jet fuel.

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