U.S. aircraft maker Boeing has raised its sales forecast for passenger airplanes in India, much higher than in China, in the next 20 years.

Despite  the financial turmoil faced by local carriers, Boeing in its latest outlook on the Indian market says the country’s commercial aviation fleet is likely to grow more than 4.5 times in size over the next 20 years and expects airliners in the South Asian country to order as many as 1,450 aircraft worth a total of up to $175 billion by 2031.

“India will have the highest passenger traffic growth in the world, higher than even China’s in the next 20 years,” says Dinesh Keskar, Boeing’s senior VP for Asia Pacific and India.

The company had forecast in 2011 that India would need 1,320 passenger airplanes worth $150 billion until 2030.

India’s commercial aircraft fleet will account for nearly 4.3% of the world market by 2031, up from less than 1.0% a few years ago, Keskar says. Boeing also expects air traffic in South Asia to grow the fastest in the world at 8.4% on average in the next 20 years.

“Over 60 million passengers will fly within India this year. Over the next 20 years, the forecast passenger growth is expected to be driven by an underlying economy with long-term growth projections of twice the world average and supported by the continued economic prosperity amongst a growing segment of the large Indian population, higher discretionary incomes, business progress and easier access to airports,” he says.

Boeing expects 1,201 deliveries of single-aisle airplanes worth $114 billion through 2031, while 234 twin-aisle aircraft are expected to be delivered during the same period at a cost of $61 billion. Regional jets may account for 15 worth $0.5 billion.

“The biggest demand for airlines in India continues to be for single-aisle airplanes, such as the next-generation 737 and new 737 MAX,” Keskar says.

Boeing says it currently leads India’s widebody, long-haul international fleet with the 777s and 747s. The Boeing 787 will be joining the fleets of Air India and Jet Airways.

“The Boeing 787 will enter and join Air India’s fleet with a very attractive interior and a number of technological features that will significantly enhance the passenger flying experience. The 787 will help airlines such as Air India augment and expand their network as opportunities present themselves,” says Keskar.

“The 787 has the range and capability to allow Air India to deploy the aircraft on many routes, including the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Australia. And all this will be at significantly lower operating costs,” he says.

Keskar also says that airlines in India are improving their financial performance due to increased yields and improved capacity management, although slowing gross domestic product growth, fuel prices and a weak rupee could affect profitability and growth in the near term.

“When you look at the market, despite some of the challenges, India will continue to have one of the strongest, most vibrant aviation markets in the world,” says Keskar.

Globally, Boeing projects a $4.5 trillion market for 34,000 airplanes over the next 20 years, driven by an increase in deliveries from India, China and other emerging markets. That forecast represents traffic growing at a 5% annual rate over the next 20 years, and the world fleet is expected to double by 2031.

777 photo: Boeing