European plane maker Airbus expects a spate of order cancellations by cash-strapped airlines this winter to contribute to flat overall sales next year, its chief operating officer said on Thursday.

I think it's going to be a difficult winter. Airlines flew with not very high yields in the summer so did not build up the warchests they usually do, Airbus COO John Leahy told reporters at a press conference.

We are expecting some airlines to say 'we'd love to have the aircraft, but we haven't got the money.'

Yields, a keenly-watched indicator in the airline industry, show average revenue per mile per passenger.

Airbus expects to sell 480 aircraft this year, unchanged from 2008, and Leahy said the company aims to achieve similar sales next year.

Our goal is to try and stay flat next year if we can, he said.

Leahy added that he did not expect a World Trade Organization inquiry into the competitive impact of subsidies received by Airbus to disrupt the development of its new A-350 wide-body jet.

I see no impact on the A-350 program from the WTO.

(Reporting by John Bowker; writing by Myles Neligan; editing by Paul Hoskins)