TOULOUSE, FRANCE — Airbus raises 20-year new airplane delivery forecast amid focus on older jet replacements.

Airbus, the European aerospace titan, has upped its 20-year outlook for new airplane deliveries on Wednesday, while moderating its estimates for the worldwide airline fleet's growth as airlines place more emphasis on phasing out older planes.

The leading planemaker anticipates 40,850 deliveries, a hike from 39,490 in its preceding 20-year prediction released last year.

It also increased its projection for freighter deliveries to 920 from 890 planes, implying 39,930 passenger aircraft deliveries. Airbus noted that typically, 80% of these would be catered to by single-aisle jets like the Airbus A320neo or Boeing 737 MAX.

Airbus drastically enhanced its prediction for the number of older aircraft to be replaced over the next two decades to 17,170 from 15,440 units.

This is partly attributed to a catch-up effect following two or three years of sluggish plane retirements as well as the definitive withdrawal of grounded planes that will not return to service, explained Bob Lange, Airbus senior vice president for business analysis and market forecast.

After the pandemic caused a drastic decline in planes in service, leading to thousands of jets being grounded globally, airlines are now utilizing older planes for longer periods to offset supply chain issues and a sudden resurgence in demand.

With an anticipated rise in aircraft replacements, Airbus expects that 58% of deliveries will contribute to growth in airline fleets, down from 60% in its previous forecast.

The subject is contentious for the industry as environmental organizations challenge whether airline expansions are compatible with the sector's environmental targets.

Aircraft manufacturers argue that delivering energy-efficient new aircraft will considerably aid in reducing emissions, complemented by alternative fuels and leaner operations.

Airbus estimates that the global fleet will more than double to 46,560 aircraft in 2042 from a pre-COVID level of 22,880 units at the beginning of 2020.

However, its prediction for the fleet at the end of the forecast period is unusually lower than the previous estimate of 46,930, as growth is expected to decelerate and retirements to augment.

The forecast arrives as airlines are rushing to place orders to revamp their fleets.

Airbus's figures are predicated on a median scenario of 3.6% traffic growth, which could face resistance from environmental regulation and energy supplies or benefit from further liberalisation and a "more stable world order."

According to the forecast, growth will be most potent in Asia, led by India, the world's fastest-growing market, and China.