The Dubai Airshow started yesterday with plane orders worth more than US$100 billion for Boeing and Airbus from Gulf carriers, mostly clinched by the US aircraft manufacturer.
The biennial show got off to a bright start for Boeing’s 777X — a long-range, wide-bodied airliner that features lower fuel consumption engines and composite wings. It is scheduled to be ready in 2020.
Etihad Airways began the coveted show with a US$25.2 billion order for Boeing. The deal also included an order for 30 units of 787 Dreamliners, making the fast-growing carrier the largest single customer of the medium-body plane.
The Abu Dhabi carrier also announced it was taking an option to purchase a further 26 planes from Boeing.
“Today is an important day in the history of Etihad,” chief executive James Hogan said.
Emirates Airline followed shortly afterwards by placing orders with both the rival US and European manufacturers, in twin deals valued at US$99 billion, 80 percent of which was destined for Boeing’s coffers.
No details were given on the figure, which includes the engines.
The Dubai-based airline ordered 150 Boeing 777X planes, including 35 777-8Xs and 115 units of the 777-9X.
The Middle East’s largest carrier also boosted Airbus’ sales book with an order for 50 A380 superjumbos, in the first sale of the double-decker this year.
The order cements Emirates’ status as the single largest operator of the long-haul airliner, airline boss Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said.
“Emirates has understood from the start the A380’s advantages in terms of efficiency, economics and passenger comfort,” Airbus chief executive officer and president Fabrice Bregier told the signing ceremony.
Airbus has been struggling to sell its A380 superjumbo.
Sales of the world’s largest commercial aircraft suffered last year after hairline cracks were discovered on A380 wings. Just nine were sold last year, down from an initial order of 30.
Emirates also announced a commitment by flydubai, its budget sister company, to buy up to 100 Boeing single-aisle 737 MAX.
Qatar Airways also chipped in by signing a letter of intent to buy 50 of Boeing’s 777Xs valued at US$19 billion. The Doha-based airline said it had also ordered five A330 freighters from Airbus, which are valued at about US$1 billion, according to list prices.
The order was accompanied by an option to add eight airliners, which would put the overall price of the deal at US$2.8 billion, chief executive Akbar al-Baker said.
The Qatar Airways boss praised Boeing’s 777 long-haul workhorse as he made a surprise appearance at the joint Emirates-Boeing briefing.
The 777 has been a best-seller since it was launched in the 1990s, with 1,473 units sold as of Tuesday last week.
Boeing is fielding the 777X to counter Airbus’ long-haul A350-1000, which is anticipated to enter service in 2017 with a capacity of 350 passengers as a threat to Boeing’s predominance in the long-haul market.
In the 2007 Dubai Airshow, sales reached US$155 billion.
Analysts have projected that orders this year could be close to that record.
Earlier this year, the Paris airshow at Le Bourget racked up about US$115 billion in announced sales at catalogue prices.
The 13th Dubai Airshow, which runs until Thursday, is held for the first time at the newly opened al-Maktoum International Airport, the emirate’s second airport and touted to become the world’s biggest once complete.
With about 150 aircraft displayed on the tarmac and with about 1,000 exhibitors, the show cements the Gulf region’s hard won position as the global hub for 21st century travel, spearheaded by booming airlines whose reach encompasses the world.