Airbus scored first blood in its head-to-head battle with US rival Boeing at the world's third-biggest air show yesterday, winning orders from Emirates worth more than US$20 billion.
Airbus executives said the order -- for 70 midsized A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) aircraft and 11 A380 Superjumbos -- was the biggest in the European constructor's history.
Boeing won orders for US$3.2 billion from the world's fastest-growing airline, bringing Emirate's total outlay for new planes to over US$23 billion.
"Emirates airlines is placing great faith in our A350 XWB and A380 programs as well as our company and we are rightfully proud," said Tom Enders, Airbus president and CEO.
Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum made the announcement at a news conference at the opening of the Dubai air show.
The airline ordered three more A380s and firmed up an existing option on eight more, bringing its total order for the giant European airliner to 58.
It also said it had an option to buy 50 more of the A350 XWBs.
"The A350 XWB and A380 [superjumbo] will play an important role in supporting Emirates' and Dubai's growth plans," Maktoum said.
"As the leading airline for the 21st century, it made sense for Emirates to choose the A350 XWB -- an aircraft designed with 21st century technologies," he said.
Asked about his company's preference for the A350 over the rival Boeing 787 Dreamliner, he said: "We looked at the two planes, their seating, their capacities ... I'm not saying that Emirates will never look at other planes. We always have the option of looking elsewhere."
The airline announced it had ordered 12 Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft at a cost of US$3.2 billion.
"Emirates will soon be the largest operator of 777s worldwide," Boeing executive vice president Scott Carson told reporters.
Asked why Emirates chose the Airbus A350 over his firm's Dreamliner, Carson replied: "We did not have the airplane that they wanted at this time."
Rolls Royce, which supplies the engines for the A350s, will reap downstream benefits of US$8.4 billion should all the options be exercised.
The first of the A350s will be delivered to Emirates in 2014.
Another European planemaker, ATR, announced an order for 10 72-500 regional transport aircraft worth US$183 million from Malaysian company Maswings.
ATR said it had received orders for a total of 88 planes since the beginning of this year.
"It's the best year since 2005, when we took orders for 90 planes," company chief Stephane Mayer said.
The emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, opened the show, which is hosting 850 exhibitors from 50 countries, a 40 percent increase from when the event was last staged in 2005.
More than 140 aircraft are on display at the five-day exhibition.
Meanwhile, Boeing and Qatar Airways signed an agreement yesterday for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and five 777 cargo planes in a deal valued at more than US$6.1 billion at list prices, Boeing said in a statement.