The rebound of wide-body planes awaits a powerful catalyst that may not come

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The global comeback of the narrow body market has been spectacular, rising from the ashes of a pandemic collapse. Many of the same factors that enabled this rebound apply to the wide-body aircraft market, but unique headwinds also persist. The result is a market waiting for a spark – to ignite a catalyst that may never arrive.

Even as COVID-19 infections raged, air travel defied expectations. While domestic and leisure travel showed a robust recovery, the challenges associated with the availability of sufficient single-aisle aircraft became evident for TAC analysis by mid-2021. In May 2022, industry giants were openly discussing the likelihood of a narrowbody shortage, including AerCap, the world’s largest commercial aircraft lessor.

Related: The pandemic could soon also mean a shortage of new planes

Both markers of a robust resumption of domestic travel and the subsequent need for single-aisle aircraft were clear. However, the inflection points that have generated strong confidence in a resurgence of American traffic and a shortage of narrowbodies are not yet coming together around renewed demand for widebody aircraft.

While many factors point to a strong surprise in twin-aisle demand, just as many point to a stagnant market.

Related: Aerospace Settles Into Persistent One-Aisle Feast and Two-Aisle Famine

We explore these conflicting factors in this TAC analysis of the widebody market. Economic and regional headwinds are keeping the widebody market in a bind. In such an uncertain market with no clear direction, we are instead focusing on upcoming shifts that could put the widebody market on the verge of a shortage, or stagnate the market for years to come.

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