Air show orders race past US$100b

Boeing gets jump on Airbus as Gulf airlines sign on for new jet in Dubai, with Cathay in the frame

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 5:25am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 5:56am

Gulf airlines splashed out on well over US$100 billion of orders on day one of the Dubai Airshow, underscoring a shift in power in the aviation industry and giving a boost to the formal launch of Boeing's newest jet, as well as to Airbus' A380 superjumbo.

Under hazy skies, sheikhs and ruling family members of Dubai and neighbouring Abu Dhabi toured rows of passenger jets and arms pavilions at the new 645,000 square metre venue, built to showcase the Middle East's largest aviation hub.

Dubai-based Emirates led the buying spree yesterday with an order for 150 of Boeing's new 777 mini-jumbo, in a deal worth US$76 billion at list prices. It also ordered 50 Airbus A380s, the world's biggest passenger plane, worth US$23 billion.

With demand from Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways as well, Boeing announced commitments for a total of 259 of the new 777 jet, previously codenamed 777X, worth about US$100 billion at list prices - the largest combined order in its history.

Cathay Pacific Airways could join the programme later, industry experts said. Germany's Lufthansa has already tentatively committed to buy 34 of the planes and British Airways has also expressed interest in the jet.

The revamped 777 marks a new front in the battle between the two manufacturers that dominate the civil aviation industry. Boeing's new plane is aimed at heading off competition from the largest version of Airbus' A350 in the mini-jumbo market that drives growth and connectivity between continents.

Boeing's top plane-making official pledged not to let a dispute with Seattle assembly workers over where the plane should be built interfere with its launch, which kicked off the Dubai show that ends on Thursday.

The US group is looking for a home for the new jet after members of the International Association of Machinists rejected a proposed contract that would have seen Boeing commit to keeping the latest member of the 777 series near Seattle in exchange for restructured benefits.

Airbus is keen to prevent a smooth lift-off for the new 777 and is negotiating deals for all sizes of its jets.

Boeing's new 777 comes in two models including what will be the world's longest-distance passenger jet, a 350-seat model to be known as the 777-8 once the aircraft has been launched. The larger 777-9 edition, carrying 406 people, will be the main version and be delivered from 2020.