Airbus sees friendly skies for aircraft orders

PARIS - European jet maker Airbus is raising its long-term forecast for new airplane demand by more than 7 percent, based on expected orders of smaller, more fuel-efficient planes and burgeoning travel in Asia.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Airbus' top salesman John Leahy said air traffic will grow 4.7 percent annually over the next 20 years.

That will require 31,400 new passenger and freighter aircraft, of which 12,400 will replace existing planes with more efficient ones. The forecast is an increase from last year's, in which Airbus predicted 29,220 aircraft would need to be built through to 2033.

Single-aisle aircraft are expected to account for 70 percent of the new production, while 9,300 widebody aircraft will have to be built.