Airbus took an early lead in securing orders for planes over its US rival at the Dubai Airshow with two leading UAE-based airlines together signing agreements for 170 planes as the Middle East's flagship aerospace expo entered the second day.
Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia has signed an agreement to buy 120 Airbus A320 family jets for $14 billion, while Emirates Airline has inked a pact to purchase 50 Airbus 350-900 aircraft in a deal worth $16 billion.
Air Arabia's order is for 73 A320neo, 27 A321neo and A321XLR planes, with the delivery expected to start in 2024. "Air Arabia's fleet growth strategy has always been driven by commercial demand," said Adel Ali, chief executive of the first low-cost carrier in the Middle East. Air Arabia operates flights to more than 170 destinations in 50 countries from four hubs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco and Egypt.
Emirates airline's order replaces a previous deal for 30 A350-900 and 40 A330-900 planes, which was announced in February this year.
"This deal reflects our confidence in the future of the UAE's aviation sector, and is a strong affirmation of Dubai's strategy to be a global nexus connected to cities, communities and economies via a world-class and modern aviation sector," said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president and chief executive officer of Emirates Group.
So far, Boeing has secured two orders - the first one for two 787-9 Dreamliner from Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the second one for 10 additional 737 MAX 8 aircraft, on the top of 32 already ordered. It was the first firm MAX order since it was grounded in March and confirmed a Reuters report that a deal was close, Reuters news agency said in a report.
Boeing Faces Mounting Problems
The five-day-long biennial expo, running between November 17 and 21, is being conducted at a time when Boeing faces mounting problems in the wake of an eight-month-long grounding of its 737 MAX planes following two fatal crashes within a span of five months and a slowdown in global economic growth.
The orders from regional airlines in the coming days will depend on the growth plans of the Gulf airlines as many of these carriers are planning to reconsider their route expansion programmes.
In fact, aviation experts consider this year's air show as a low-key affair when compared to the previous shows where mega deals were signed between plane makers and regional airlines on the first day itself.
According to media reports, there was a whopping $192 billion worth of aircraft orders on the first day in 2013, while the 2017 expo saw $15 billion worth of orders for planes on the first day.
Seattle-based Boeing may use the air show to come out with a clear road map for MAX in an attempt to re-establish confidence among both airlines and passengers, after the planemaker took a $4.9 billion hit in the second quarter of this year on grounded aircraft and a host of related compensation claims. Flydubai, the largest operator of Boeing 737 MAX in the Gulf region and the second-biggest MAX customer in the world, has grounded 13 such planes. The low-cost carrier has already placed orders for 237 MAX planes.