India will need 1,450 planes over next 20 years - Boeing

NEW DELHI Tue Sep 4, 2012 5:59am EDT

Boeing India President Dinesh Keskar (C) poses in front of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for All Nippon Airways (ANA) after its India debut landing at the Indira Gandhi international airport in New Delhi, in this July 13, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

Boeing India President Dinesh Keskar (C) poses in front of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for All Nippon Airways (ANA) after its India debut landing at the Indira Gandhi international airport in New Delhi, in this July 13, 2011 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/B Mathur/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Boeing Co raised its forecast for the Indian plane market on Tuesday, saying the South Asian country would need 1,450 new aircraft worth $175 billion by 2031.

Last year, the U.S. planemaker had forecast demand at 1,320 planes up to 2030, worth $150 billion.

"India will have the highest passenger traffic growth in the world, higher than even China's in the next 20 years," Dinesh Keskar, Boeing's senior vice president for Asia Pacific and India, told reporters.

Boeing (BA.N) officials forecast passenger traffic to grow by 8.4 percent annually in South Asia, which includes India, and by 7 percent annually in China up to 2031.

Boeing and its European rival, Airbus EAD.PA, are locked in a global contest for passenger plane market share and in some cases have resorted to halving prices to bolster orders of newly revamped models of their best-selling narrowbody jets.

India, one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, offers tremendous growth opportunities to planemakers as more newly affluent Indians take to the skies.

However, the Indian market has slowed recently. India's domestic air traffic fell 1.1 percent in July compared to a year ago, the worst performance for any market globally, according to the International Air Transport Association, an industry body representing more than 80 percent of global air traffic.

India's airlines are struggling with surging oil prices, high sales taxes on jet fuel and fierce competition that has resulted in cutthroat pricing, leading to massive losses.

Boeing has also lost several deals in Asia to Airbus recently, including a $7 billion order from Philippine Airlines Inc , despite massive U.S. lobbying on behalf of Boeing.

Boeing has been waiting for months to deliver the first of 27 Dreamliners ordered by state-owned Air India, but the deal has been delayed by more than four years as Air India and Boeing fought over how much compensation Boeing should pay for production delays that disrupted the delivery schedule.

China last month signed an agreement with Germany for 50 Airbus planes worth more than $4 billion during Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Beijing, the first significant order since a dispute between Beijing and Europe over emissions trading.

However, the dispute between China and the European Union has frozen earlier deals and China continues to block the purchase of some 35 larger Airbus aircraft.

Airbus booked orders for 1,419 planes worth some 90 billion pounds in 2011, compared with Boeing's 805. Airbus finished last year with a 64 percent market share. (Reporting by Anurag Kotoky; Editing by Matt Driskill)