Boeing, like its European rival Airbus, is finding sales of its largest product sluggish but retains its less bullish view of the market. It remains convinced that the rise of new hubs around the world will dampen demand for very large aircraft as airlines connect their networks directly.
"Our assumptions on the large airplane market are around 750 airplanes over the next 20 years, including freighters," says John Wojick, Boeing's senior vice president global sales. "When you divide that, it is about four airplanes a month and we're building two 747s a month and we think that is a sustainable market in this size category."
Wojick says the large airliner market (i.e. the 747-8/A380 category) is "not a huge market" from Boeing's perspective, but it will continue to compete with its 747 derivative for at least another 10 years. "We're committed to both the 747-8I and F well into the next decade, and you'll see more success in the coming months for both versions," he says.
"As competition around the world continues to evolve, you see hubs emerging in many different locations. That dynamic is going to continue to evolve all over the world and drives our 20-year forecast, which says yes, there is demand for large aircraft but it's not as large as our competitor's forecast."
Wojick points to the US market's multiple hub system as what has prevented Airbus from ever securing a customer for the passenger A380 variant there. He also questions whether the A380 has the economics to compete effectively with the latest airliner developments in the smaller categories: "I can fly two 787-8s which seat about the same number of passengers as one A380, and burn less fuel," he says. "So I can do two frequencies each day more efficiently with lower emissions than flying one A380, on a given route."