PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) increased its 20-year forecast for jet demand by nearly 4 percent on Monday and was upbeat about prospects for superjumbos such as its troubled A380 plane, driven by growth in emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region and China.
Airbus sees demand for 32,585 new planes worth $4.9 trillion, up from a previous forecast in September for 31,358 planes worth $4.6 trillion, it said at the Paris Airshow.
The European firm trimmed its forecast for global passenger growth, predicting an annual average rate of 4.6 percent over the next 20 years, compared with last year’s forecast for 4.7 percent.
The growth of the middle class in developing countries would drive traffic growth, sales chief John Leahy said at a briefing.
“When people have disposable income they use it to fly,” he said.
Last week, U.S. rival Boeing (BA.N) similarly raised its long-term forecast for aircraft demand while trimming its prediction for traffic growth.
Airbus increased its forecast for single-aisle jets to nearly 22,927, compared with a previous figure for 22,071, and said it expected demand for 9,658 new wide-body planes and freighters.
Breaking down the figures for the wide-body category, Leahy said Airbus saw demand for 1,550 very large aircraft, an increase of 49 aircraft on its last forecast made in September.
Last week, Boeing cut its forecast for very large aircraft — planes with four-engines and including Airbus’ A380 superjumbo, which is struggling for sales — to 540 from 620 a year ago.
“Very large aircraft are required over next 20 years, we can’t just increase efficiency,” Leahy said, pointing to airport congestion as a reason to use larger planes.
Airbus planemaking chief Fabrice Bregier said on Friday that Boeing’s decision to cut its forecast implied it was giving up on its 747-8, which has also been suffering slow sales. But Boeing officials at the air show said there was good demand for 747-8 freighters due to a pick-up in the cargo market.
The focus at this year’s Paris show, which runs from June 15-21 is on the supply chain and how the industry can cope with ramping up aircraft production to meet record backlogs.
Airbus plans to increase production of its best-selling A320 single-aisle planes to 50 a month from the first quarter of 2017 and confirmed on Monday it was studying an increase beyond that.
Leahy said he expected a decision to increase production to be made by the end of the year.
Boeing is planning to move to a rate of 52 a month for its 737 jet in 2018.
Reporting by Tim Hepher and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter