A Wide-Angle View of the Airline MRO Market

by Matthew Beres, Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Analyst, Forecast International.

It’s well known that the international MRO market is going to grow. The important question is, how is the market going to grow? Certainly whether you are an OEM or a traditional vendor – if you aren’t up to date with the latest technological momentum and industry trends, the ocean is going to look very red.

What should traditional players do? They should learn more about the market. There are many great opportunities to take advantage of. Early adopters will reap the benefits. And no matter how much business is available, late adopters will eventually head the way of Blockbuster vs Netflix, or Amazon vs Borders.


Seating densification – More seats, but more room for passengers. New components and innovative designs are advancing significantly in this respect.

Premium seating – Bigger, better, Italian leather. The market looks to be reaching saturation right now, but upgrades still continue. This is a highly competitive market, with besting other airlines being the goal.

Wi-Fi – Will be huge for a long time. Flights are now expected to be equipped for high-speed, reliable Wi-Fi. Despite this, many airliners are still not connected, or are poorly connected. Even as airlines get on the boat, technology will evolve, and consequently so will demand for enhancements to existing Wi-Fi capabilities. This is a highly competitive market.

LED mood lighting – Lighter, and requiring less maintenance. It also makes the cabin look so much better.

Health monitoring – There are any number of sensors and apps to help monitor platform systems. Bottom line, it decreases costs and enhances operational safety. This is directly linked to big data.


AI – It’s already here. AI will increase the pace of the MRO market, particularly when integrated with health monitoring, big data, and navigation. It’s going to make things safer, and it’s going to save airlines money. Those MRO vendors and airlines that get on board early will have a competitive advantage in the market.

Cyber security – This will be big. MRO companies and airlines are relying more and more on big data and AI to run operations. We’ve already seen how cyber attacks can disrupt companies, the economy and society. Disrupt the MRO supply chain and see what happens – see how big of a ripple effect will be created.

Additive manufacturing – This could also increase the pace of the aftermarket. Not just component manufacturers, but all industry players need to monitor this technology. Even if you don’t think it will immediately affect your business operations, there may be indirect effects that transform your market environment. This applies to AI and big data as well.

People – If you can provide skilled, reliable maintenance personnel, there will be firms eager to apply their capabilities.  If you can train these people, another opportunity. If you can help integrate a new technology into an antiquated business model, and help train that business’s employees on how best to utilize it, you can help vendors remain competitive.

What should traditional aftermarket vendors do to remain competitive in the markets for these advancements? They should get on board now or learn how to swim.  Many vendors may not be aware of how many opportunities are available.  In-house marketing strategists inherently work with tunnel vision. They have trouble looking at the market from a wider, objective perspective. Traditional vendors will need experienced third-party market intelligence resources – such as the services and products offered by Forecast International – to help navigate the changing landscape. OEMs and larger traditional vendors already use these services, which is one reason why they’re winning.

Forecast International’s Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Forecast provides operators in the military and commercial aviation sectors with the information they need to maximize their current investments rather than expand their fleets, a trend that is opening up multiple opportunities for the expansion of retrofit and modernization programs. It offers a one-stop service for tracking the status of commercial and military R&M programs in progress worldwide, and pinpoints key developments in the aviation industry that will impact the market in the future.


About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter. As the Internet grew in importance as a research tool, he helped design the company's Forecast Intelligence Center and currently coordinates the EMarket Alert newsletters for clients. Richard also manages social media efforts, including two new blogs: Defense & Security Monitor, covering defense systems and international issues, and Flight Plan, which focuses on commercial aviation and space systems. For over 30 years, Richard has authored the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed data on major aerospace and defense contractors. He also edits the International Contractors service, a database that tracks all the contractors involved in the programs covered in the FI library. More recently he was appointed Manager, Information Services Group (ISG), a new unit that encompasses developing outbound content for both Forecast International and Military Periscope.

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