Airbus clinches last-minute deal with Emirates as Boeing soars at Dubai Airshow

The company fell behind its US arch-rival Boeing in aircraft deals at the Middle East's major air expo

An Airbus A350-1000 flies during the 2023 Dubai Airshow. AFP
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European plane maker Airbus scored a last-minute order from Emirates on the fourth day of the Dubai Airshow, as the airline continues to swell its fleet in preparation for future growth.

However, the order placed was for additional A350-900 jets, rather than the larger A350-1000, sidestepping the differences between the airline and Rolls-Royce over the engine used for the latter.

Even after clinching the order, Airbus fell behind its US arch-rival Boeing in aircraft deals at the Middle East's major air expo where Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, placed headline orders.

“We are happy to see Emirates continuing to build their A350 fleet which shows their trust in Rolls-Royce,” Ewen McDonald, Rolls-Royce's chief customer officer of civil aerospace, told The National on Thursday.

Rolls-Royce said discussions with Emirates on the engine for the larger variant will continue, and that it will “look forward to them choosing this aircraft in the future”, he said.

The Airbus announcement kept order deals flowing at the Dubai Airshow, setting the stage for a strong finish to the event.

Thursday's deal takes Emirates' orders at the event to a total of 110 additional aircraft, including the 95 jets it ordered from Boeing on Monday, for a total value of $58 billion at list prices.

“We plan to deploy our A350s to serve a range of new markets including long-haul missions of up to 15 hours flying time from Dubai,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

“We will work closely with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure our aircraft deliver the best possible operating efficiency and flying experience for our customers.”

Emirates expects continued growth in the next six months of its current fiscal year despite geopolitical challenges, Sheikh Ahmed said earlier.

The airline is recording only a minimal effect from the Israel-Gaza war, he said.

“When it comes to whether it will really affect the business we are in today, we see there is a small effect and we hope that it will not continue and they will be able to find a way to solve this issue.”

Drones for aircraft inspections

Emirates also continued to expand its collaboration with Boeing, signing a preliminary agreement with the US plane maker for the use of advanced technologies to improve operations.

The partnership will include using drones to assist in aircraft inspections, virtual and augmented reality to grow precision and effectiveness in maintenance tasks, as well as next-generation prognostic and predictive maintenance, Emirates said.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub signed an agreement with supply chain service provider UUDS in which the latter will be building its third complex at the hub's complex in Dubai South.

UUDS' new hangar will provide aircraft management and on-wing cabin services, featuring an aircraft cabin completion and modification centre. VIP aircraft parking and aircraft on the ground support will also be provided in addition to helicopter services.

GAL-Ammroc, a unit of the UAE's military maintenance company Ammroc, signed a preliminary agreement with California-based Archer Aviation to launch an electric air taxi service in the UAE and the wider Middle East beginning in 2026.

It follows the recent announcement of GAL-Ammroc and Archer’s intent to team up at the new Smart and Autonomous Vehicle Industries cluster in Abu Dhabi's clean energy hub Masdar City.

The partnership aims to reduce 60-90 minute car commutes with an estimated 10-20 minute electric air taxi flights that are “safe, sustainable, low noise and cost competitive”.

Abu Dhabi's Edge Group, meanwhile, continued to secure partnerships. Its engineering unit, EPI, signed two contracts: one to supply metallic machine parts to Boeing, specifically for the 777, 777X and 787 commercial aircraft, and another to supply machined aircraft parts – also to Boeing – in partnership with Mubadala Investment Company unit Strata Manufacturing.

Its autonomous systems arm, Adasi, signed a Dh239 million ($65 million) contract to supply Garmoosha unmanned aerial systems to the Ministry of Defence, while its guided defence systems unit, Halcon, signed an agreement with UAE software company Augmented Reality Engineering for advanced AR solutions.

Edge's helicopter flight training academy, Horizon, received the 2023 Aviation Safety Marathon Challenge – Psychoactive Substances Management Programme award from the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority.

Updated: November 17, 2023, 12:45 PM