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ABU DHABI: As Qatar gets ready for its first A350 and Etihad rolls out its first B787-9, Airbus expects the world's airlines to buy 31,400 new passenger and freighter aircraft worth US$4.6 trillion in the next two decades.

With passenger and freighter fleets more than doubling to total 37,500 aircraft, the manufacturer says 12,400 older aircraft will be retired during the period. Between 2014 and 2023, Airbus says 452 freighters will be ordered – falling to 351 units over the next decade for a total of two percent of global aircraft orders.

etihad 787-9By 2033, Airbus expects "the world to be a very different place" as China tops the GDP rankings from 2023 onwards and India rises from 10th place in 2013 to third place behind the U.S. in the next two decades. Brazil is expected to take 5th place behind Japan and ahead of Germany and the U.K., with France dropping to 9th place behind Russia by 2033 – when Indonesia enters the world's top GDP list for the first time in 10th place.

From 2013 to 2033, the manufacturer is forecasting a 4.5 percent annual rise in freight tonne-kilometres (FTKs) – a slight drop from last year's 20-year forecast of 4.8 percent per annum. The company says this is due to a revision of world trade growth of 4.3 percent from an earlier forecast of 4.6 percent "with all the regions being negatively impacted, apart from the Middle East".

Airbus expects no change in a previous estimate that the top five freight traffic flows will involve emerging economies, the PRC plus two mature regions - North America and Europe: "More specifically, airfreight traffic from the PRC and North America leads today (7.0 percent in 2013) and will continue to lead total traffic in the future (9.0 percent in 2033). This flow is followed by PRC-Europe (with 6.0 percent and 8.0 percent in 2013 and 2033 respectively) and Europe-PRC (4.0 percent and 6.0 percent respectively)."

The manufacturer also acknowledges the continuing ability of Gulf-based airlines to take advantage of their geography and cites Abu Dhabi as the most 'central' city in the world - connecting 99.9 percent of a global urban population with a direct flight by very long-haul aircraft.

"As a result of increased urbanisation and concentration of wealth, the number of aviation mega-cities worldwide will double to 91. These cities will be centres of world wealth creation with 35 percent of world GDP centred there, with more than 95 percent of all long haul traffic going to from or through them," Airbus adds.

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