Airbus Chief Executive Gustav Humbert played down expectations of a rapid replacement of the A320 aircraft family, saying on Thursday its popular jet would not be supplanted until at least 2015.
Humbert's predecessor Noel Forgeard, who is now co-chief executive of parent firm EADS, said earlier this week that Airbus was looking into the next generation of medium-haul, single-aisle jets.
Forgeard's remarks were seen as a sign that Airbus was ready to start work on replacing the best-selling A320 family, which was introduced in 1988.
"I think this was a clear misinterpretation, misunderstanding," Humbert told reporters in Rome, where he announced 30 new firm orders by airline Air One for jets in the A320 series.
"It is very clear the 320 family, as the newest technology, will for sure live at least until around 2015 ... because if you want to have an all new aircraft in this category, you also need a completely new engine."
He added that engine manufacturers "will not be ready to have an all-new engine before, and enter into service, around 2015. So this was a misunderstanding. There is no quick change or quick move in terms of replacing the 320."
The single-aisle A320 family -- actually four aircraft seating 107 to 185 passengers -- is the workhorse series that provides the Toulouse-based firm with most of its orders and profits.
Christopher Buckley, Airbus' senior vice-president for Europe, said in a presentation that there had already been 3,914 firm orders for the A320.
"We are rapidly approaching, and I think we're already there, 4,000 firm orders," Buckley said.
The newest orders came from Italy's Air One, which beyond the 30 firm orders worth $1.8 billion, said it would also exercise options this year for another 10 planes.
The planes were being fitted with CFM56 engines -- the world's most-sold engine. CFM is jointly owned by Snecma and General Electric.
Air One is buying the planes to replace its fleet of Boeing 737s, a move which Airbus said it hoped will be replicated by other carriers in Italy, including Alitalia, which is looking at fleet renewal.
But the Airbus A340 model, a four-engine, long-haul plane, is not doing as well worldwide against its twin-engine Boeing rival, the 777. There has been speculation that Airbus may look again at the design of the plane to boost sales.
Asked whether it was possible that Airbus could re-design the 340, Humbert responded: "I don't see any need to do this".
Humbert declind to offer details on Airbus's 2005 performance, asking reporters to wait until a Jan. 17 press conference. Most analysts believe Airbus lagged Boeing in orders for the first time since 2001, while staying ahead on deliveries.