Airbus has released its latest forecast for future global aircraft needs, estimating that the world’s passenger fleet will more than double to 48,000 aircraft in 20 years.

The manufacturer’s Global Market Forecast 2018-2037 estimates that a total of 37,390 passenger and freighter aircraft will be required to meet demand, valued at around US$5.8 trillion.

Airbus says that more than three quarters of the total requirement (28,550 aircraft) will come from the Small segment – a space typically taken up by single-aisle aircraft.

The group’s largest aircraft – the A380 superjumbo – has struggled for sales in recent years, but Airbus says that the requirement for planes in the Extra-Large segment (which includes the manufacturer’s A350-1000 and A380s) will total just under 1,600 aircraft.

Of the 37,390 total, around 26,500 will be required for growth, with around 10,850 being used to replace existing fleets.

The group says that passenger traffic is currently growing at “a resilient 4.4 per cent per year”, with drivers including higher disposable incomes and “a near doubling of the middle classes globally”.

Emerging countries are expected to account for over 60 per cent of growth, with trips per capita set to multiple 2.5 times for these nations.

Commenting on the forecasts Eric Schulz, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer said:

“There is a growing trend to use aircraft across a broader range of operations, with today’s more capable aircraft blurring the boundaries between market segments. These realities made us develop a new segmentation with Small, Medium, Large and Extra-Large categories, reflecting more closely the way airlines operate aircraft.

“Thanks to the versatility of our leading, most comprehensive family of aircraft, the top end of our single aisles, the A321neo, fly efficiently on long haul routes and our wide bodies like the A330neo equally serve regional operations. We’re extremely strong in this Medium market segment.”