Dubai Airshow lifts the Covid-19 aviation gloom

Thousands of people from across the world attend event that brings the airline industry together for first time since the pandemic

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Thousands of international delegates converged on the outskirts of Al Maktoum International Airport for the first day of the Dubai air show on Sunday.

The event opened to much fanfare as the Dubai Police band marched its way through the stands, drums beating and bagpipes in full cry.

This year's Dubai Airshow is probably the best attended that we've seen in many years
Miles Chambers, Edge

Cancelled last year due to Covid-19, the exhibition has returned to form with more than 1,200 exhibitors from 48 countries, and thousands of delegates expected from November 14 to 18.

The event is an opportunity for the airline industry to finally come together again, after Covid-19 caused organisers to cancel the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget in 2021 and Britain’s Farnborough International air show in 2020.

Deals worth billions of dollars have been signed at the show in previous years, and hopes were high among delegates that the event could be an opportunity to put the worst behind them.

The mood music was positive, with the UAE Ministry of Defence awarding Dh5.23 billion ($1.42bn) worth of contracts hours after the doors opened.

Miles Chambers, director of business development for UAE defence conglomerate Edge, said the company also expected to announce positive news this week.

Edge hosted one of the biggest stands at the event, and showcased 13 new products, including GPS-Protect, a made in the UAE device that stops GPS systems from being jammed by the enemy.

Mr Chambers said it was great to reconnect with clients and competitors in person.

“This year's Dubai air show is probably the best attended that we've seen in many years,” he said.

“The UAE has had such a great vaccination campaign, and opened up to tourism, so people can come here with relative ease.”

Nearby, Emirates Airline showcased a passenger innovation first introduced in 2017, but perfectly suited to a post-Covid world.

A mock-up of an Emirates Airline suite at the company's stand at the Dubai Airshow 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Delegates queued to try out the mock-up of their 3.7 metre private suite, which enables affluent travellers to effectively seal themselves off from the rest of the plane.

The struggles faced by airlines affected by Covid-19 have been well documented, but smaller aviation companies have felt the financial chill as well.

Reda El Madbouly is the chief executive of Egyptian company United ATS, one of 371 exhibiting at the airshow for the first time.

“We are all surviving now,” said Mr El Madbouly, whose company supplies aviation technology services. “I think by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022, we will be back to where we were at the start of 2019.”

Telal International, an Emirati-owned company that designs and manufactures pilots and air steward uniforms, also hosted a stand for the first time.

Hassan Thurabi, director of Telal International, mans the company's stand at the Dubai Airshow 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The firm has 1,500 employees, including around 500 tailors and 900 factory staff based in the UAE.

“After the Covid situation, this is one of the biggest platforms for us to exhibit what we do to an international market, so why not be a part of it,” said Hassan Thurabi, 26, the director of the company which also makes traditional kanduras.

“We are strongly present in the GCC sector, but we are looking to move out into the US and European market.”

Israel Aerospace Industries was one many international companies with a presence at the airshow. The company has more than 15,000 employees and produces aerial and astronautical systems for both military and civilian use.

Golan Haver, a senior vice president in marketing at the group, said it was excited to be exhibiting in the UAE for the first time, thanks to the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.

“This is an open door to find new partners, to strengthen some exciting collaborations. This is also an excellent platform to try to bring business to fruition,” said Mr Haver.

“The treatment that we are receiving is warm, they welcome us, and the UAE is a natural partner for innovating, cutting edge technology. We are sharing the same spirit in terms of start-up, entrepreneurial culture.

“We find a lot in common, and this helps us build future relationships.”

Dubai air show takes off

Updated: November 15, 2021, 5:27 AM