The head of European plane maker Airbus, Thomas Enders, warned on Thursday of a "horrible" year ahead for airlines, with the global economic crisis sharply reducing demand for flights.
This year "may be much more horrible from the customers point of view than 2008," he told journalists.
Last year had been an "annus horribilis from the customers' point of view because of the fuel price in the first semester (first half) and the recession and the credit squeeze in the second half of the year."
For Airbus, he said he expected a sharp drop off in orders, adding that the number of deliveries this year would surpass the number of orders for the first time since 2003.
"We all know that 2009 will be a very challenging year for the aeronautics industry. At Airbus we are well prepared and confident," he said.
In 2008, Airbus overtook its rival Boeing measured by orders and deliveries.
Airbus took 777 orders and made 483 deliveries while Boeing reported 662 orders and 375 deliveries.
Memories of 2007 are still fresh, when the two giants took a record 2,754 orders between them, but the market for planes has now changed dramatically.
Aviation industry group IATA has said it expects the airline industry to lose 2.5 billion dollars in 2009 due to the economic crisis after losses of some 5.0 billion dollars in 2008.
Demand for flights has fallen sharply as recession bites in many leading economies.
In November last year, the last month for which data is available from IATA. passenger numbers were down and freight plunged by a "shocking" 13.5 percent, the worst drop since the September 11 terror attacks.
Airbus also said it expected to deliver only 18 of its superjumbo A380 planes.
It had previously said it would struggle to meet its target of delivering 21 because of difficulties in ramping up output.