Asia to be biggest aircraft market by 2029: Airbus

HONG KONG, March 7, 2011 (AFP) - Asia will emerge as the world's biggest aircraft market by 2029, accounting for a third of worldwide plane deliveries as the middle class drives demand, Airbus said Monday.

The European plane maker also said it was experiencing surging Chinese demand for corporate jets and that sales to Chinese buyers could approach levels in the Middle East.

Christopher Emerson, Airbus's senior vice president, head of market strategy and market forecast, speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong on March 7, 2011. AFP

Worldwide, air traffic is set to double over the next 15 years, with the Asia-Pacific region set to overtake North America and Europe as the largest air transport market, taking delivery of about 8,560 new planes worth $1.2 trillion by 2029, Airbus said.

That figure will represent about 33 percent of world deliveries, up from the region's 26 percent share between 1990 and 2009, Airbus said as it released its Asia-Pacific Market Forecast.

"Asia Pacific will lead this air traffic by 2029," Chris Emerson, the firm's senior vice president of product strategy and market forecast, told a press briefing in Hong Kong.

"In Asia, more and more people are able and wanting to fly every day," he added.

The aviation industry will grow 4.8 percent annually over the next two decades, the company said, while the sector booked a record $30 billion operating profit last year, a rise also led by Asian carriers.

The Asia-Pacific area will grow faster than the worldwide average, with passenger numbers rising 5.8 percent a year, and the cargo business growing seven percent annually, also higher than the 5.9 percent worldwide average, Airbus said.

Emerson said Asia had the "youngest and newest" fleets, with aircraft that burn less fuel than older models, while the region is emerging as a key growth area among low-cost carriers.

Airbus also said its corporate jet operation set a company record last year, delivering 15 jets worth $1.5 billion, with China the firm's fastest-growing market.

Chinese customers accounted for about 25 percent of the company's business jet sales last year, with that figure expected to close in on the Middle East's 50 percent market share in "a couple of years," said Francois Chazelle, the company's vice president of executive and private aviation.

Sales in the hard-hit North American market have been "limited" but the European market is coming back thanks to orders from Russia, Chazelle added.

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