European plane maker Airbus and its American rival Boeing have forecast a market for nearly 620 aircraft worth more than $60 billion in the Middle East and Africa.
Airbus, which put up a strong presence at last month's Dubai 2001 air show led by its newest and largest A340-600 aircraft, said Middle East and African carriers will acquire some 620 aircraft, worth some $60 billion up to the year 2018.
It said it expects to take half the business.
"All of the major carriers are already customers or operators of our aircraft," said Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard.
"Airbus recognises the challenges currently faced by the air transport industry and is doing its best to respond to specific airline needs - both for aircraft deliveries and in enhancing security aboard its aircraft. It remains cautiously optimistic about the medium term, because of the dependence of both business and tourism on air travel."
Boeing also issued a bullish sector forecast saying the Middle East will require 651 new commercial jets, worth $63 billion over the next 20 years.
"By 2020 the region's carriers will be flying an estimated 1,020 airplanes," said Randy Baseler, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president, marketing.
"Forty-one per cent of the new deliveries will be intermediate-size twin-aisle airplanes, a significantly higher proportion than is expected in other regions. More than half, or 351 airplanes delivered will be single-aisle and small regional jets with just five per cent being 747-size or larger."
Baseler said demand would support a 4.2 per cent increase in air travel serving Middle East connections with the highest Middle East growth market being to and from Southwest Asia following by intra-regional travel.
"The most heavily travelled routes, in total passengers, will continue to be to and from European markets," he said.
"The Middle East is expected to experience economic growth at higher than the world average during the next 20 years," he said.
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