Airbus unsurprisingly retains a bullish outlook for A380-sized airliner demand in its just-released 20-year market forecast, which finally acknowledges that Dubai will be the number one hub for very large airliners (VLA).

The 2011 Global Market Forecast (GMF) sees demand for 27,850 new airliner deliveries over the next 20 years, worth $3.5 trillion - a rise of more than 2,000 units over its previous forecast a year ago.

Within that demand some 6%, or 1,780 units, will be VLAs - of which 1,331 will be passenger aircraft such as the A380, and the remainder freighters.

Although the bulk of the increase is driven by a major hike in its forecast for single-aisle deliveries, Airbus has also slightly raised its demand outlook for VLA passenger aircraft, as it continues to predict capacity growth will be ahead of frequency growth on many long-haul routes.

Airbus sees a major driver behind the demand for these VLAs coming from the escalating tally of "aviation mega-cities" around the world, which it expects will number 87 by 2030, said the European airframer's head of future programmes and market strategy, Chris Emerson.

"Long-haul traffic will almost triple, which is twice as fast as the increase between city-pairs, which rises just 1.4 times," he said. "90% of the long-haul traffic will be passing through one of the 87 mega-cities.

"When we drill down and look at the growth in the middle-class population, and the concentration around the mega-cities, we look at how we allocate the traffic over a frequency - add another airplane or more seats? That's driven by the airline preference," Emerson said.

"So we look at how many frequencies they have today and we say 'that's sufficient', so, as we put the passenger throughput into the model, we ask 'does it make sense to put another 777 or 747 on, or do they take a 777 or A330 and make it larger?'

"In this forecast, because of the pivotal point, we see it is better to put an A380 on, rather than add another aircraft."

This year's prediction for the "top 20" VLA hubs over the next 20 years is led by the Emirates' hub, Dubai - which is no surprise, as the airline has ordered 90 A380s. However, it is the first time the city has topped the Airbus VLA hub rankings, having been placed fourth in the previous table published two years ago (which that time was topped by Hong Kong).

"I took the top 20 aviation mega-cities and ranked them by their demand for VLAs. These are the top 20 cities that will want to fly an A380 or Boeing 747-8," Emerson said. "If you overlay this with urbanisation you see a one-to-one hash."

Although Hong Kong - the Cathay Pacific hub - remains in the top five this year, it has slipped to third behind Beijing. Heathrow remains in the top five, but with lower status, while Tokyo Narita falls out completely - down to 11th - and is replaced by New York Kennedy, which has risen a remarkable 14 places to fifth.

Airbus has taken orders for 236 A380s from 18 customers - the largest of which is Emirates - and 54 are now in service.

Although Cathay has not ordered the 525-seater, a deal from local rival Hong Kong Airlines for 15 aircraft is believed to be under negotiation. The second-largest A380 customer is Qantas, with 20 on order. A US airline is yet to order the double-decker.

Source: Flight Daily News