Gulf carriers place £100bn aircraft order

Middle Eastern airlines underlined their rapid ascendancy to the forefront of the global aviation market by announcing aircraft orders worth around £100bn at the Dubai Airshow – including over 200 of a newly launched Boeing model.

Dubai-based Emirates, already the world’s biggest operator of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, placed an order for 50 more of the doubledecker planes, giving a total of 140.

Its smaller UAE rival from Abu Dhabi, Etihad, ordered 50 of Airbus’s latest plane, the smaller A350, for delivery from 2020. As well as 37 other Airbus planes, Etihad ordered 30 more Boeing 787 Dreamliners, making it the largest customer for the pioneering model. Despite a troubled start that saw the entire 787 fleet grounded earlier this year, the Dubai deal took total orders for Dreamliner past the 1,000 mark. Boeing said the milestone made its 787 the fastest selling wide-bodied plane in avaiation history.

But Boeing’s biggest coup was the announcement of agreements to buy 259 of its upcoming 777X plane, the majority by Gulf carriers. On the day of the official product launch of a new, more fuel-efficient version of the popular 777 jumbo, Boeing said it had secured agreements worth up to $95bn (£59bn) at list prices. Boeing said the commitments – for 150 planes from Emirates, 50 from Qatar Airways, 25 from Etihad, as well as 34 from German airline Lufthansa – would provide a strong foundation for development and production of the airplane.

Meanwhile, low-cost carrier flydubai made a commitment for up to 111 Boeing 737s, worth up to $11.4bn, the largest deal the American aircraft manufacturer has yet secured in the Middle East for single-aisle planes.

Qatar Airways also added 13 Airbus planes to its 50 from Boeing.

Etihad’s 50 Airbus A350s will be powered by engines produced and maintained by Rolls Royce, the British engineering firm announced, in a deal worth up to $5bn.