Dubai Airshow closes with $54.5bn in deals as Airbus leads Boeing

The Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer secured 220 deals during the week while Boeing made 95 agreements

United Arab Emirates' Al Fursan perform during the fifth day of Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Christopher Pike
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The Dubai Airshow ended on Thursday with Airbus overtaking US rival Boeing in the number of deals, though both plane makers saw slimmer wide-body jet deals that ended uncertainty around commitments from Emirates — the world's biggest long-haul carrier.

Airbus scored 220 plane orders during the week, dominated by a long-awaited narrowbodies deal from Sharjah-based Air Arabia, but failed to secure an A330 Neos order from Emirates. Boeing lagged behind with 95 agreements for commercial jets valued at more than $17.4 billion (Dh63.9bn) at list prices but managed to secure deals for its embattled 737 Max, despite an ongoing ban on the narrowbody fleet following two deadly crashes.

A total of $54.5bn in overall deals were signed at the Dubai Airshow this week, organisers of the biennial commercial and military expo said on Thursday, without providing a breakdown or comparative figure for 2017.

Emirates, the world's biggest operator of wide-body jets, made headlines at its home-base air show with total orders worth about $25bn during the week.

The carrier purchased 40 Boeing Dreamliners, while reducing its order of the delayed 777X to 126 planes down from an originally planned 150, after intense negotiations where lawyers were finalising the details until the same morning of the signing.

Emirates also ordered 50 Airbus A350s, but slashed an outline deal for Airbus A330 Neo wide-body planes.

The recalibrated orders come as Emirates reviews its fleet ahead of the demise of the Airbus A380 programme, while the carrier grapples with a slowing global economy and concerns about the performance of new planes.

However, the orders helped to end the speculation and uncertainty around expected deals from Emirates, an airline that is a key driver of major wide-body programmes.

Boeing managed to garner sales for its troubled 737 Max jet at the event including Air Astana’s intention to order 30 737 Max 8 airplanes, the purchase of 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes by Turkey's SunExpress and the order for 20 737 Maxs from an unidentified customer.

The US plane maker sought to reassure customers of the safety of the jet and the steps it is taking to make changes to the flight-control system, which was linked to the two deadly crashes.

Air Arabia, the UAE's only listed carrier, ordered 120 Airbus narrowbodies valued at $14bn for growth and the replacement of its fleet. While it did not provide many details on the routes or ownership structure of its short-haul joint venture with Etihad Airways, operations are expected by the second quarter of 2020.

Air Senegal, the state-owned flagship airline of the west African country, signed a preliminary order with Airbus for eight A220 worth $732 million at list prices.

Saudi Arabia's budget airline Flynas increased an existing plane order with Airbus with the purchase of an additional 10 long-range A321XLRs to expand its route network.

The air show also saw a slew of deals from the UAE's aerospace manufacturing companies as the country focuses on growing local industrial capabilities.

On the military side, the UAE Ministry of Defence signed 51 firm contracts worth Dh18bn in total during the Dubai Airshow, it said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Technological advancements and space exploration were also strong themes during the show.

Edge, the UAE defence conglomerate with a focus on tech innovation debuted at the Airshow this week.

"Edge has been very well received. We have been very busy and have been inundated with requests and interest from several friendly nations around us. I think we’ve had an excellent show, with lively interest in the product range that we’re offering, and this is exciting stuff,"  Theunis Botha, chief executive of Al-Tariq, a company under Edge, said.

The Dubai Airshow featured more than 1,288 exhibitors, 161 aircraft on the event’s static display, and footfall of 84,043 trade attendees, with a total order book on site reaching $54.5bn by close of business, organisers said.