NEW YORK — The worldwide airline fleet has nearly returned to its pre-pandemic size and is predicted to increase by an additional third by 2033.

The American Consulting firm Oliver Wyman's 2023-2033 Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast estimates that the number of commercial jets will grow from roughly 27,400 to over 36,000 aircraft in a decade, representing a 33% increase.

The analysis, released on April 12, anticipates a great number of commercial aircraft deliveries over the next decade, despite supply chain limitations potentially affecting this year's targets. It predicts that around 20,600 new production aircraft will be delivered globally by 2033, surpassing the retirement of older models. However, the report also acknowledges that even without supply chain issues, meeting higher production goals from Boeing and Airbus would be challenging.

India is currently the fastest-growing market for commercial aircraft, with Air India's recent orders for hundreds of Boeing and Airbus planes as evidence of the country's surging demand.

By 2033, the global fleet of narrowbody jets is projected to increase from 16,400 to approximately 23,400, and the total number of widebody aircraft will rise from 5,500 to about 6,900. In contrast, the global regional jet fleet is expected to experience only modest growth during this period, with 1,400 deliveries slightly outpacing 1,200 retirements.

The report anticipates a decline in the number of regional jets in North America and Western Europe, from 2,100 to around 1,700 by 2033. This trend may be due to countries like France moving away from air travel for regional transportation. The authors also note that regional airlines have been hit hardest by labor market shortages, leading to service reductions for less popular and rural destinations.

Throughout the next decade, shortages of qualified pilots and mechanics are expected to continue to impact the entire industry. The report highlights that North America is facing potentially severe shortfalls in commercial airline pilots and aircraft mechanics, with supply gaps reaching 18% for pilots and 14% for mechanics in 2023.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will become an increasingly important issue for the aviation industry. However, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is costly and in short supply, with Oliver Wyman predicting a 2030 supply of 5.4 billion gallons of SAF against the 16 billion gallons needed to maintain 2019 emissions levels.

The report is also pessimistic about electric, hydrogen, or other alternative propulsion systems becoming commercially viable for aircraft in the near future, as no viable replacement for internal combustion jet engines is expected within the next decade or two.

The Russian airline fleet is projected to decrease by 25% by 2033 due to Western sanctions related to the Ukraine conflict, which may obstruct Russia's plans to develop its own narrowbody aircraft.

Lastly, the global maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services market is expected to grow by 22% in 2023, reaching $94 billion. By 2033, MRO spending is projected to hit $125 billion, according to Oliver Wyman.