The biennial Dubai Air Show wrapped up on Thursday, with a total of $54.5 billion in deals and record attendance, highlighting the investments that airlines are continuing to make into their growing fleets. Of those sales, Emirates and Air Arabia alone accounted for $38.8 billion in deals (or 71 per cent). Emirates airline made aircraft orders worth a total of $24.8 billion at the Air Show, while Air Arabia made an order for $14 billion as both airlines plot their future fleets and strategies.
Total sales were less than half of the $113.8 billion in deals signed at the previous edition of the Air Show in 2017. The decline year-on-year is not unusual, given that many airlines that made orders in 2017 are still waiting for delivery of those aircraft. It also comes as airlines reconsider their fleet mix amid challenges facing both airlines and manufacturers.
Still, at this year’s air show, Emirates signed deals with both Airbus and Boeing for a total of 80 aircraft. The first deal, valued at $16 billion, went to Airbus for an order of 50 of the A350-900 aircraft, and replaced an order in February for 30 A350’s. The $8.8-billion-deal with Boeing was for 39 of the 787-9 Dreamliners.
Discussions, or rather questions, around Boeing’s grounded 737 Max aircraft dominated the event, and Boeing said it sought to reassure its customers about the safe return of the jet. After two fatal accidents involving the 737 Max’s killed over 300 people, the model was grounded across the world, and continues to be for the eighth month in a row.
The grounded 737 Max’s still managed to get orders at the Air Show, with Turkey’s SunExpress and Kazakhstan-based Air Astana inking orders for the jets for a total of $4.8 billion. Top executives from both airlines expressed their confidence in Boeing and its ability to deliver a safe, reliable aircraft once the re-certification is done.
Boeing even managed to get some support from Ethiopian Airlines, whose 737 Max jet crashed in March and killed everyone on-board. The head of Ethiopian Air at the Air Show reiterated his trust in Boeing, and said the two parties are working together on upgrades to the grounded jet’s systems. Its 737 Max aside, Boeing still faced questions at the Air Show on its 777X jets, which are yet to be launched. Emirates, the largest customer of the 777Xs, said it wants the model to be put through “hell on Earth” in testing to ensure it is safe to fly.
Stanley Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who was present at the air show, said Boeing is working with Emirates and other airlines to make sure they are confident in the testing of the aircraft and the model before it enters into service. Away from Emirates, most of the other UAE airlines were not inking purchasing deals.
Etihad Airways, which is attempting to turn around three consecutive years of losses, had one deal with Boeing to look into reducing the carbon footprint of aircraft and cutting fuel costs. Meanwhile, budget carrier flydubai did not have a static display at the Air Show and did not sign any deals there as it continues to face the impact of the grounding of 13 of its Boeing 737 Max’s.
A flydubai spokesperson told Gulf News that while its representatives are attending the event, it is not exhibiting in order to avoid any disruption to passengers, considering its already-reduced fleet of jets in operation.
Sharjah-based Air Arabia, however, signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with Airbus for 120 aircraft. It also announced that its joint venture with Etihad Airways will start operations in the first half of 2020. The venture is a new low-cost carrier called Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, which will be the fifth UAE-based airline.