Smaller planes in demand as Asia travel boom deepens

SINGAPORE, February 16, 2014 (AFP) – Smaller passenger planes are increasingly in demand in Asia as budget carriers cash in on the region’s growing middle classes by expanding their reach to less prominent cities, industry executives say. So-called “regional” jets — short to medium-haul aircraft that generally seat under 100 passengers — were among the best-sellers at the Singapore Airshow which ended at the weekend.

Jimmy Lau, managing director of show organiser Experia Events, said demand for smaller aircraft will rise as Asia’s burgeoning middle class sustains the growth in air travel that began in metropolitan areas.

“The people who will be likely making good inroads are the Embraers and the Bombardiers who will be selling their smaller regional jets to countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia,” Lau told reporters as the Airshow ended with deals totalling a record $32 billion.

Embraer, the Brazilian plane maker, forecasts that Asia-Pacific carriers will take delivery of 1,500 new jets in the 70- to 130-seat segment over the next 20 years, with a total value of $70 billion. This would represent nearly 20 percent of global demand.

Canada’s Bombardier expects the region to get one-third of the 12,800 aircraft