Dubai Airshow

No Dubai Order Sprees This Year, but Market Fine

 - November 9, 2015, 11:45 AM

A lack of civil aircraft orders from the local airlines characterized the 2015 Dubai Airshow, in marked contrast to the 2013 event, where Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways notched huge orders for 777Xs and A380s. The quiet commercial showing resulted in a greater emphasis on the defense sector, which has contracted markedly in recent years and typically gets overshadowed at international airshows by big airliner orders.

This time around, Boeing’s rather inelegant effort to generate some news took the form of a press conference to reveal the identity of a previous customer (India’s Jet Airways) for twenty-five 737 Max narrowbodies, while a conversion of Airbus A330 and A320neo options by British Airways parent IAG to firm orders barely drew any notice.

At the same time Russian industry has had a relatively strong presence here, having been shut out (on the defense side at least) from the bigger Farnborough and Paris shows, while the country concentrates more on ties with the East. The same applies to Iran, just across the Gulf, north from Dubai, where potential lifting of sanctions could result in a raft of orders for aircraft, both civil and military, plus related services and equipment. Russian industry could have the most to gain.

Meanwhile, one might attribute the rather underwhelming amount of commercial activity here to the close proximity of the NBAA show, scheduled for Las Vegas next week. NBAA ranks as the year’s biggest show for business aviation, and although the likes of Gulfstream, Textron and others made the trip to Dubai, they were not very vocal here and senior executives were notably lacking in numbers.

Happily for air show organizers, the static display line featured such notables as a trio of A380s–one each from Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline–and the Bombardier CSeries, whose appearance at this year’s show remained very much in doubt until only days before the November 8 opening.

Alluding to slow commercial aircraft sales at the show, Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier said yesterday during a press conference here in Dubai that airlines in the Middle East already have plenty on order. “They ordered 160 aircraft at the show in 2013, they are not going to do that again two years later,” he asserted.

He also rejected the notion that overcapacity might be afflicting the market at the moment, as airlines continue to take delivery of the aircraft on order. He sees the absence of new contracts linked to neither the global economy nor fuel prices. “I have almost 900 orders this year,” he pointed out.

Although he characterized the Dubai show as important, Brégier also described it as “regional,” unlike the more globally oriented Farnborough and Paris shows. In other words, show activity this time does not indicate an overall softening of the market, according to Brégier.