LONDON (AP) — Airbus is predicting that the number of jet planes around the world will double in the next 20 years, largely to satisfy demand in emerging markets, particularly China.
At a press briefing in London, where it unveiled its market forecasts for the period up to 2032, the European plane maker said air traffic will grow 4.7 percent annually.
That will require 29,220 new passenger and freighter aircraft, of which 10,400 will replace existing planes with more efficient ones. The forecast is an increase from last year's, in which Airbus predicted 28,200 aircraft would need to be built through to 2031.
Airbus values the new aircraft needs at $4.4 trillion. Single-aisle aircraft are expected to account for around two-thirds of the new production, while a little over 1,700 very large aircraft, such as Airbus' superjumbo A380, will have to be built. By 2032, Airbus says the worldwide fleet will double to nearly 36,560.
The company said there are many factors behind the increase, such as economic growth, a bigger global middle class, migration and tourism.
It made much of the advance of urbanization around the world, notably in China, for driving demand. Airbus said that by 2032 the number of mega cities — those whose airports serve more than 10,000 long-haul passengers daily — will more than double to 89 from 42 now and that 99 percent of the world's long-haul traffic will be between or through these.
Given the underlying demographic and economic trends, Asia Pacific will overtake Europe and North America in terms of traffic by 2032, according to John Leahy, Airbus' chief operating officer for customers.
"Today on average, a fifth of the population of the emerging markets take a flight annually and by 2032, this will swell to two thirds," said Leahy, who later Tuesday is due to fly to China, where is expected to announce more orders for the company's planes. "Domestic China will be the biggest market."
Airbus' projections are similar to those of its great rival, Boeing Co. In June, the U.S. plane-maker forecast the need for 35,280 new planes by 2032, valued at $4.8 trillion. And like Airbus, it said single-aisle airplanes, such as its 737 range, will take the lion's share of the orders in light of the growth in emerging markets such as China.
Though smaller planes are the most in demand, Airbus' Leahy said larger planes will garner more and more orders, particularly in Asia Pacific.
On Tuesday, British Airways becomes the tenth airliner to commercially fly the A380, with a mid-afternoon flight to Los Angeles.