Airbus is hopeful that its production will remain flat in 2010, but warns that it expects airlines are about to endure a "difficult winter", which will inevitably result in more cancellations and deferrals.
The airframer is on course to match its 2008 output this year with a similar number of deliveries, but is not yet prepared to discuss the detail of its 2010 output, says Airbus's chief operating officer customers John Leahy.
"We don't have a forecast yet, but the goal is to try stay flat," he said, speaking in London during the unveiling of the airframer's 2009 Global Market Forecast: "There is some downside risk [to keeping output stable] and we'll have a forecast for you in January."
However Leahy warned that there are still some near-term threats on the horizon: "I think this is going to be a difficult winter because even if financing is available, airlines still have to put up some equity themselves," he said.
"The airline industry did not have very high yields this summer so they didn't build up the war chests they normally do going into the winter. So at some point we see a continuation of requests for deferrals and cancellations but that has been taken into account in our delivery forecast."
Leahy said that Airbus still has some overbooking in its 2010 output and that he believes the airframer has got its orderbook management "somewhat under control, but we are watching it very carefully airline by airline".
Meanwhile, Leahy has reiterated his previous comments about Airbus's orders in 2009, saying that he still hopes to take "around 300 gross orders" but "it is looking more difficult to get to that target".
In the eight months to the end of August, Airbus has secured 147 firm orders.
A key driver that has allowed both Airbus and Boeing to keep production high despite the fall in passenger traffic is that the high fuel price has prompted many airlines to replace older, less-efficient types with new aircraft.
"In the first half of 2009, because of the fuel price, the airlines have taken out as much as 13% of their 'mid-generation' fleets - aircraft like the Boeing MD-80 - [compared with the same period in 2008]," says Laurent Rouaud, Airbus's senior vice-president market and strategy, quoting OAG data.
Over the same period, "they have been adding more and more new-generation aircraft" resulting in that fleet increasing by 6%, he adds. "This is one of the reasons we are delivering 480 aircraft this year."
In addition to the 13% decline in the mid-generation fleet, Airbus's OAG data shows that the fleet of old-generation airliners (for example Boeing 737-200s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s) has declined 15% during the first half of 2009 (in available-seat-km terms).
Airbus's data shows that of the 13,785 passenger airliners in service at the end of 2008 (Western-built/100 seats and above), over 5,000 - or almost 40% - are old (821) and mid-generation (4,440) aircraft.
Rouaud says that the coming recovery will bring with it increasing fuel prices - Airbus's latest GMF assumes oil will rise from $70/barrel today to around $100/barrel by 2015 - and the growing new- generation aircraft fleet provides the airlines with "a natural hedge against the fuel price".