Next week’s Dubai Airshow, running from November 17 to 21, is poised to provide yet more evidence of the soaring ambitions of the Gulf region’s air carriers, and Boeing’s new 777X twinjet seems set to be the main beneficiary of their relentless fleet expansion plans.
Rivals Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways are all firmly expected to announce significant orders at the show, and, according to sources close to ongoing negotiations, this could include deals for some 250 of the new widebodies, which will seat up to 400 passengers and offer range of up to 9,395 nm. Dubai-based Emirates has been in talks for between 100 and 150 of the 777Xs, which Boeing is offering as an alternative to the Airbus A350XWB. Etihad has signaled an intent to invest in between 25 and 30 of the aircraft, as well as potentially add to its orders for the 787 Dreamliner.
At the end of October, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker confirmed that the carrier will place new aircraft orders during the Dubai show, but he declined to indicate where this new business might be going. The carrier has been giving mixed messages about whether it will opt for the 777X, but Al Baker has indicated that he does not intend to add to Qatar’s existing Airbus A380 orders.
The 13th staging of the biennial Dubai Airshow will be the first to be held in a purpose-built complex at the Dubai World Central complex, which encompasses a string of planned business parks and the new Al Maktoum International Airport. In late October, the airport finally received its first passenger flight, with the inauguration of Wizz Air services from the Hungarian capital Budapest. Germany’s Condor Flugdienst is due to begin services to the new airport by the end of this month, to be followed by Kyrgyzstan Air Company in December and, potentially, Qatar Airways in March next year. But it remains far from clear how flights to and from Dubai might eventually be split between Al Maktoum and the emirate’s existing gateway, Dubai International Airport.
The Dubai Airshow is set to be the largest in the event’s 26-year history, with up to 60,000 trade visitors expected to be received by more than 1,000 exhibitors (respectively 5 and 7 percent increases on the 2011 totals).
AIN will provide full news coverage of the show at www.ainonline.com, as well as in its daily print editions produced in Dubai and in its Dubai Reports e-newsletters.