Airbus: China will trump US with flight demand

Matt Clinch; Reporting by Phil LeBeau
Airbus COO : China will be number one market in 20 years
Airbus COO : China will be number one market in 20 years

The amount of passengers taking domestic flights in China in twenty years' time will dwarf that in the United States, leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus said on Tuesday.

"It's a big story," John Leahy, chief operating officer at the customers department for Airbus told CNBC. Twenty nine percent of all the revenue passenger kilometers are going to be coming out of Asia-Pacific, he added, with China growing rapidly.

"In twenty years the number one domestic market by far will be domestic China, it's quite a shift," he said.

At a press event in London, the firm outlined its global market forecast covering the period of 2013-2032. It predicts that jet demand will grow by 3.6 percent to 29,266 aircraft over this 20-year period. It added that the industry will need $4.4 trillion worth of new jetliners and freighters in over 20 years, revising its growth outlook higher for the sector.

(Read More: Why Airbus chose Alabama for A320 assembly line)

"Economic growth, growing middle classes, affordability, ease of travel, urbanization, tourism, and migration are some factors increasing connectivity between people and regions and how often they travel," the company said in a press release.

"Increasing urbanization will lead to a doubling of mega cities from 42 today to 89 by 2032, and 99 percent of the world's long-haul traffic will be between or through these."

Demand for wide-body twin-engined jets will increase by 4.3 percent, it said, whilst narrow-body jets will increase by 3.7 percent. Meanwhile, the global air traffic market is set to grow by 4.7 percent a year from 2013 to 2032, it said, with the number of airline passengers set to rise to 6.7 billion in 2032 from 2.9 billion today.

(Read More: EADS changes name to Airbus, raises jet order goal)

Airbus said this growth would be mainly led by Asia, with Brazil also experiencing significant growth. Asia-Pacific will account for 36 percent of all new passenger aircraft demand, according to its statistics, followed by Europe with 20 percent and North America with 19 percent.

"By 2032, Asia-Pacific will lead the world in traffic overtaking Europe and North America. Today on average, a fifth of the population of the emerging markets take a flight annually and by 2032, this will swell to two thirds," he said.

By's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81