The commercial aviation fleet is projected to grow 28% over the next 10 years, expanding from today’s 28,400 aircraft to 36,400 by 2034, according to a new report from consulting firm Oliver Wyman, a business of Marsh McLennan.

Meanwhile, the fleet across the Middle East will grow by 51% from 1,472 to 2,227.

“Having clawed its way back from Covid, the industry is finally out of recovery mode and on a growth trajectory,” said Anthony DiNota, Vice President of Oliver Wyman’s Cavok. “But the pandemic is having a lasting impact. Before Covid the fleet was slated to reach 39,000 aircraft by 2030. However, this won’t happen until 2036, with Covid wiping out six years of growth," DiNota said.

“Over the next decade, there will be shifts in the regional composition of the global fleet, with the Middle East gaining a larger share,” said André Martins, Partner and Head of Transportation and Service for India, the Middle East, and Africa at Oliver Wyman.

“Many factors are contributing to this growth, including the region’s central location, the strength of the well-established players in the market, and the addition of new players. The bold economic diversification plans across the GCC are also a strong factor: these visions will bolster many industries that will be key to fueling the growth of the region’s aviation industry.”

The Oliver Wyman report also finds that globally, the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) sector will grow almost 3% in 2024, reaching $104 billion, and will expand 1.8% annually on average through 2034.

Key findings of the forecast include:

• Global growth rate – Globally, the industry has now matched its pre-Covid peak, but growth moving forward will be slower. The fleet will expand 2.5% annually (compound annual growth rate) versus the 2.9% projected in last year’s 2023-2033 forecast. Narrowbodies are expected to see a steady increase in their share of the fleet, rising from 61% in 2024 to 63% in 2034. This growth is driven by the resurgence of domestic air travel worldwide, which is projected to surpass the pre-Covid peak.

• Middle East fleet growth outstrips global average - The Middle East fleet is projected to grow at an annual 4.2% from 2024 to 2034, outstripping growth rates in most parts of the world, including Africa (2.3%), Latin America (1.9%), North America (1.8%), and Western Europe (1.0%). This growth will be driven primarily by narrowbodies. In a region where widebodies have long dominated, narrowbodies will climb from 40% to 47% of the fleet over the decade. Widebodies will decrease from 56% to 50%.

• India leads – For the first time ever, India will overtake China as the industry’s growth leader, with the Indian fleet expected to expand almost 13% over the first five years of the forecast period and nearly 10% for the entire 10 years. Currently at about 600 planes, the Indian fleet will be 2.5 times the size it is today by 2034.

• MRO in the Middle East compared to the world - The aviation’s global aftermarket, known as MRO, keeps aircraft flying. The overall MRO market in the Middle East is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.3% (vs. 1.8% globally) from 2023 to 2034 and will be driven by local capabilities development to capture value leakage. It is slated to be worth nearly $16 billion by 2034 (vs. $124 billion globally).  

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