Airbus has questioned whether Boeing is living in "a parallel universe" after its rival has again questioned sales forecasts for the Airbus A380. The two companies are at loggerheads over the market for ultra-large aircraft.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president Randy Baseler says the world market over the next 20 years for "Boeing 747 and larger" passenger aircraft is around 320 aircraft. This compares with the Airbus forecast that 1,138 500-seat and larger aircraft will be needed in the same time period.

In the Middle East market, Boeing does not hold much hope of any more A380 orders being placed, forecasting a need for 43 passenger aircraft in that category, two fewer than the A380 orderbook for the region - 43 for Emirates and two for Qatar Airways.

Airbus vice-president market forecasts Adam Brown has expressed surprise at Boeing's view of the ultra-large market, pointing out that it already has over 120 orders for the A380 and it is still three years from entry into service. "Are they living in a parallel universe?" he asks.

Brown says the A380 will help airlines cope with increased congestion at airports as there is more consolidation of routes. "We expect that the 10 airlines that hold launch orders for the A380 will between them have 400 of the 550-seat aircraft in service 20 years from now," he says.

Baseler says Airbus has compromised the baseline A380-800's design to enable it to be stretched in the future: "The aircraft is 57% heavier than the 747-400, but only carries 30% more passengers. That's because it's an aircraft waiting to be stretched." Airbus has tentative plans for a stretched "-900" version of the A380 which would seat around 650 passengers - 100 more than the -800.

Source: Flight International