Rhys Jones London

Airbus, the largest manufacturer of passenger jets, has raised its 20-year industry forecast for aircraft deliveries by about 5 percent as its annual survey of global aviation demand pointed to healthy long-term growth.

The European company said yesterday that global airlines would buy a total of $4 trillion (R33.5 trillion) of aircraft over the next 20 years as they sought efficient new models to counter high fuel costs and meet relentless demand for travel to and from emerging markets.

Airbus expects population growth and urbanisation to continue to promote strong demand and raised the 20-year forecast for total aircraft deliveries to 28 200. Of these, 27 350 are passenger jets and 850 are freighters.

Airlines and lessors have continued to order aircraft despite the economic downturn, replacing expensive gas guzzlers with more efficient models as they become available.

“Emerging economic regions will represent more than half of all traffic growth in the next 20 years,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy said.

“Increasing urbanisation and the doubling of the world’s middle classes to 5 billion people is also driving growth. By 2031 megacities will more than double to 92 and more than 90 percent of the world’s traffic will be between or through these points.”

In its previous 20-year forecast, issued a year ago, Airbus had predicted total worldwide demand for 26 921 passenger jets worth $3.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030.

Leahy and other industry leaders have dismissed warnings issued by some aviation financiers of an asset bubble.

In July Airbus’s US rival Boeing predicted demand for 34 000 passenger jets worth $4.5 trillion over the next two decades, based on average economic growth of 3.2 percent.

Both jet makers also expect soaring demand for narrowbody or single-aisle jets to provide the backbone of many airlines.

The pair have decided to refresh their best-selling models with new engines to cut fuel costs and see off newcomers such as Canada’s Bombardier or builders in China and Russia.

Last month the International Air Transport Association announced an unchanged forecast for 2012 airline profits of $3 billion but the industry lobby group was cautious on the outlook for airlines because of doubts over EU growth. Premium travel is where airlines make most of their cash and is viewed as a key guide to business confidence. – Reuters