Chris Jasper/LONDON

Airbus Industrie forecasts that demand for passenger aircraft over the next 20 years will be just two-thirds of that predicted by Boeing. The two manufacturers are in close agreement on likely traffic growth, but Airbus believes the market will fragment far less than does Boeing, and predicts lower overall demand but a much greater call for very large aircraft (VLA), such as its A3XX.

Airbus, which released its Global Market Forecast (GMF) last week, says around 19,173 passenger aircraft - 14,700 of them new - will be required by 2019, with Boeing - which published its forecast in July - predicting that 28,558 will be needed, or 49% more than its rival.

Airbus says the forecasts differ chiefly because Boeing anticipates massive fragmentation of the market as hub-to-hub travel is eroded by demand for point-to-point services, creating a market for more, and smaller, aircraft. Boeing argues that demand for greater frequencies will also favour smaller jets.

Airbus vice president market forecasts, Adam Brown, claims Boeing's conclusions are fundamentally flawed. While Boeing believes markets are 'convenience' and time sensitive, he says, Airbus believes cost sensitivity is most crucial - limiting fragmentation.

Brown also argues that Boeing has taken a "US-centric" view in believing "they can draw conclusions about the world market by studying only US airlines", and has also failed to realise that while trunk routes will make up a smaller proportion of the future world market, they will continue to grow in real terms. He says that most Asian countries will retain large hubs for intercontinental travel because their urban population is concentrated in one big city. Environmental constraints will also favour larger types.

Airbus therefore projects demand for 1,235 500-plus seat VLAs by 2019, nearly four times the Boeing figure. Cargo VLAs will take that to 1,550 says Airbus, against Boeing's projected 500. The two have long disagreed over VLA demand and Airbus senior vice president commercial, John Leahy, claims Boeing figures may be low because the US giant wants to "knock" the A3XX.

The GMF identifies Tokyo Narita as the largest VLA airport, with 116 aircraft by 2019. London Heathrow is ranked second. It says the busiest routes will be Narita-Los Angeles and Heathrow-New York JFK, employing 20 each, while Brown says Japan Airlines is the biggest potential customer, requiring over 100-plus aircraft.

• Leahy says he hopes to secure 40 A3XX commitments "by the end of October", allowing industrial launch by year-end, although this could slip to January. He does not expect Boeing to launch the 747X, but to favour a "clean paper" design, entering service at least two years after the A3XX.


2019 total



Boeing v Airbus**

Traffic (RPKs-billion)




Fleet (passenger aircraft in service)




Very large aircraft (500+ seats)




Notes: Boeing figure includes all regional jets, including 4,869 of 70 seats or less. Airbus figure includes only those RJs it believes will be operated by mainline airlines, and therefore excludes all sub-70-seaters and some large RJs. ***RPK figures similarly affected, but impact on totals negligible. **% difference in forecasts.

Source: Airbus Industrie & Boeing

Source: Flight International