Airbus raised its forecast for aircraft demand over the next 20 years, citing the travel needs of 6 billion people in emerging economies as airlines stage a stronger-than-predicted rebound from recession.

By 2029, a third of all passenger traffic will be in Asia, compared with 27 percent now, while skies over North America will see their share of the global air travel market shrink to 20 percent from 28 percent.

Demand for travel is doubling every 15 years ... but in places like India and China we expect to double in the next six years, Airbus sales chief John Leahy told a news conference on Monday.

The world's largest planemaker, ahead of rival Boeing , forecast deliveries of 25,850 new passenger and freight aircraft worth $3.2 trillion from 2010-29, an increase of 899 planes from its previous annual forecast.

The EADS subsidiary forecast average annual growth in passenger traffic of 4.8 percent over the period, up from 4.7 percent previously.

Latest forecasts from Boeing, which measures demand for aircraft of 90 seats and upwards compared with the Airbus cut-off point of 100 seats, were for 30,900 aircraft worth $3.6 trillion over the next 20 years.

Both planemakers face growing competition from Canada, China and, potentially, Brazil and Russia for sales of their smallest but most popular aircraft, the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

Airbus raised its forecast for deliveries of these single-aisle passenger jets as well as small freighters by around 900 planes to 17,870 aircraft over the forecast period.


Leahy defended a recent decision to upgrade the company's A320 single-aisle aircraft with new engines from 2016.

Leahy said new engines to be supplied by U.S. company Pratt & Whitney , or a partnership between U.S. group General Electric and French group Safran , would provide each plane with fuel savings equivalent to the consumption of 1,000 cars a year.

It would be ridiculous for us not to offer that to the market, Leahy said.

Leasing companies have expressed concerns about the impact on resale values of existing planes and Boeing has said it was in no hurry to match its European rival by upgrading its 737.

Leahy also said he would clear his name in a French legal probe over insider trading allegations dating back to the announcement of severe delays to the A380 superjumbo in 2006.

A French judge has placed Leahy under formal investigation along with six other current and former executives who were cleared by the French AMF market regulator last year.

Leahy said the AMF had reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed witnesses at length.

To have a sole independent judge and an assistant decide that maybe the AMF got it wrong: I think the polite thing for me to say is that it is disappointing, and disappointing to be told also that the process could take another two years.

Leahy, an American who has been at Airbus for 26 years, said the ongoing legal process would be a burden but he was certain he and fellow suspects would be cleared.

EADS backed Leahy and other people involved in the case on Saturday.

Leahy also delivered a swipe to British enginemaker Rolls-Royce over its handling of a recent engine blowout on a Qantas A380 superjumbo, but said he believed the engine maker would resolve problems with its Trent 900 engines

Rolls could improve their communication and their PR but they are a good manufacturer; they will get it fixed, he said.

A gleaming A380 in Qantas livery rolled up to an Airbus parking stand shortly after Leahy spoke, ready for delivery.

The aircraft, on which a Rolls engine was changed following an oil pipe inspection last week, will be the airline's seventh superjumbo and the 18th A380 delivered by Airbus this year.

Airbus has said it may seek compensation from Rolls-Royce over disruption caused by the blowout which has been blamed on a faulty oil pipe inside the turbine section of one engine.

(Editing by Dan Lalor)