While the market for small passenger planes is facing emerging competition from aircraft makers in places such as Russia, China and Japan, it is still a two-horse race when it comes to the very large aircraft.
Airbus and Boeing dominate the field and both companies are likely to continue doing so for decades because of the high barriers to entry, such as the drain on financial and engineering resources in designing planes capable of carrying 400 to 500 passengers.
But the two manufacturers disagree on how large this market actually is. Airbus, which invested an estimated tens of billions of dollars to develop the A380, believes airlines will buy 1,740 very large aircraft over the next two decades, particularly with the rise of super cities with populations of more than 10 million people.
The oft-repeated Airbus marketing pitch is that passengers prefer flying on an A380 and so airlines will see that "it takes an A380 to compete against an A380".
Boeing spent far less to update its long-standing 747 into the 747-8 because it believes there is a market for 720 very large planes, including 170 from the Middle East, until 2029.
While the 747-8 is being outsold by the Airbus A380 and Boeing's own 777 aircraft, the 747-8 does have one advantage. Airbus scrapped plans to build an all-cargo version of the A380, effectively ceding the market to Boeing's 747-8 Freighter. Steven Udvar-Hazy, the chief executive of Air Lease, and one of the biggest names in the aviation industry, predicted the 747-8 will be the "benchmark freighter" for the next 20 years.
Similarly, Richard Aboulafia, the vice president of analysis at the US-based Teal Group, predicted the freighter version will make up two thirds of all 747-8 sales. "In the long run, we are expecting about 450 to 500 sales over 20 years" of the 747-8, he said.
If that happens, it would bring the 747's sales to just under 2,000 aircraft since it was first introduced in 1970.