BEIJING, May 6 (Reuters) Chinese airlines are expected to double their fleet to more than 1,500 aircraft by 2010 as domestic air passenger and cargo volume grow, a senior aviation official was quoted on Saturday as saying.
Chinese airlines would increase their combined fleet to 1,580 airplanes from 863 currently by 2010, Gao Hongfeng, vice-minister of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told the English-language China Daily.
By 2025, the fleet could be expanded to 4,000 aircraft, up from about 500 planes in 2000, he said without giving a dollar figure.
''The expectation is based on the robust growth of the domestic travel market,'' Gao was quoted as saying.
He predicted China's domestic air travel market would grow 14 percent annually through 2010 and 11 percent annually from 2011 to 2020.
China's 27 airlines handled 138 million passengers last year, up 15.5 percent from the previous year, the China Daily said.
Cargo handled surged 13.8 percent during the same period.
China, the world's fastest-expanding major aviation market, is a pivotal battleground between Boeing and Airbus, a subsidiary of European aerospace firm EADS Boeing has forecast that China will need to buy more than 2,000 planes over the next two decades.
George Liu, Boeing China's vice-president of communications, said his company's goal is to keep its market share in China for many years to come.
As of December 2005, 542 of the 888 commercial jetliners operating on mainland China -- or 61 percent -- were Boeing planes.
Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi signed an order in April for 80 Boeing 737s worth .2 billion.
Boeing hopes to match or exceed its record sale of 120 aircraft worth US.8 billion to China last year, the China Daily said.
''China is and will remain Boeing's most important and largest overseas market for years to come and that will create more quality jobs for American designing engineers, test pilots and assembly line workers,'' Liu was quoted as saying.
The China Daily quoted an Airbus report as saying China needs at least 200 large airplanes such as the 555-seat Airbus A380, the biggest passenger aircraft to date, over the next 20 years.
Airbus has steadily ramped up its fleet in China with its market share increasing to 34 percent in 2005 from just 7 percent in 1995.
''We aim to dominate half of China's market by 2013,'' the newspaper quoted the Airbus report as saying.
REUTERS PV HS1248