UPDATE 1-Boeing sees Middle East market of $550 bln over 20 years

Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:20am EST

DUBAI Nov 14 (Reuters) - Boeing Co on Thursday forecast that Middle Eastern airlines would need 2,610 new airplanes worth $550 billion over the next 20 years, thanks to rapid traffic growth in the region.

"International traffic growth in the Middle East continues to outpace the rest of the world," said Randy Tinseth, Vice President of Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, citing the Gulf's position as a waystation between Europe and Asia.

About one-third of the projected demand or 900 airplanes will be to replace today's fleets, while two-thirds is expected to be driven by fleet expansion in the region, he said.

Tinseth was speaking before the Dubai Air Show, which starts on Sunday. The U.S. plane maker looks set to dominate the show with over $100 billion of deals; it aims to launch its latest long-haul jet, the 777X, with up to 250 potential orders from as many as five airlines, industry sources said.

A widely expected potential order could be from Dubai flag carrier Emirates, which may order as many as 150 of the new 777X passenger jets.

"We are on target to launch the 777X later this year," Tinseth said when asked if the plane would be launched at the Dubai Air Show.

"We have been working very hard on the 777X to determine what is the right size and the right range. We believe we now have the right balance."

Twin-aisle aircraft will account for more than half of the region's new plane deliveries over the next 20 years, compared to 24 percent globally, Boeing said.

In June, Boeing raised its 20-year forecast for global airplane demand by 3.8 percent, citing growth in Asia-Pacific travel. It sees a need for 35,280 new jets worth $4.8 trillion as the world's fleet doubles over the next two decades.

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