Boeing has significantly increased its long-term airliner delivery forecast on the back of a big jump in expected demand for single-aisle aircraft.
However, the airframer is unmoved by the recent sales success of the Airbus A380, remaining downbeat about long-term demand for very large aircraft.
Last year, Boeing took the unusual step of reducing its 20-year forecast slightly (to 29,000 units) - a move that has been more than reversed in 2010's current market outlook, where it has hiked up demand by 1,900 aircraft.
"Last year we didn't appreciate how robust the market was, so that's why we pulled back a little bit," says vice-president marketing Randy Tinseth.
In its new forecast, Boeing predicts demand for 30,900 new aircraft worth $3.6 trillion between 2010 and 2029.
An increase in expected demand for single- and twin-aisles has driven the 6.6% rise in the overall forecast, as a result of three factors, says Tinseth. Boeing has increased its long-term outlook for annual world economy growth from 3.1% in 2009 to 3.2%, while the expected demand for replacement aircraft has gone up due to a slight downward adjustment in the average retirement age, to 23-25 years.
"We also assume that low-cost carriers will grow at a faster rate, which combined with emerging markets will help stimulate more demand," he says.
One category that is notable for remaining unchanged is the 400-seat-plus sector, where Boeing's 747-8 competes with the larger A380. Here Boeing's forecast has declined slightly from 740 units to 720 (including around 220 freighters), which is less than half of the 1,729 aircraft market predicted by Airbus in its latest 20-year forecast.
"Airbus is waiting for a paradigm shift in the marketplace, and that just hasn't happened," says Tinseth. "The A380 has underperformed in the market even to our expectations," he adds, referring to the superjumbo's sluggish sales in recent years before June's Emirates deal for 32 more A380s.
Tinseth, who points to the fact that Emirates' 90 orders represent 38% of the entire A380 orderbook, sees the airline and its fellow Middle East carriers as major threat to the legacy network players. "Based on the aircraft they're buying, the Middle East airlines are focused on taking the majority of the growth in the market which is going to impact the other airlines," he says.
And Boeing now recognises emerging threats in its own market in the latest forecast. "We are expecting one or more of the new entrants to be successful and sell airplanes," says Tinseth. "As I look out into the market I see [Russia's] MS-21 and [China's] C919. I look at what the Koreans and the Japanese might be able to do, and what Embraer and Bombardier will be able to do. When you look long-term you have to add one or two of those new guys into the mix."