DUBAI — The Middle East is on track to becoming the world’s dominant travel hub and now the region’s largest airline has made another ground-breaking aircraft order, with an unexpected twist.
Emirates has signed off on a US$15.1 billion commitment to purchase 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners at the Dubai Airshow 2017, taking place this week. Emirates is already the world’s largest Boeing 777 operator and the airline will be first to receive the new 777X in 2020.
According to reports, the deal appeared to surprise Boeing’s archrival Airbus, whose staff had attended a long-delayed news conference and left the room just moments before the announcement.
Airbus has pinned hopes of continuing production of its double-decker jumbo jet on Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the aircraft which took delivery of its 100th A380 earlier this month. Reports circulated before the air show that a major A380 sale would be coming.
But instead, Emirates CEO and Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum explained how the airline considered the Airbus A350 and decided to pick the Boeing 787-10.
“We were comparing the two apples,” he said, but found that the Boeing 787 is “the best option” for Emirates “given its maintenance and so on.”
The Boeing 787-10 typically lists for $312.8 million. Delivery will begin in 2022.
“The order will take Emirates’ total (number of) wide body aircraft of the Boeing to 204 aircrafts, units worth over $90 billion,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
Dubai Airshow 2017 opened its doors Nov. 12 at DWC, Dubai Airshow Site to a record number of exhibitors, aircraft on display, visitors, and as in past years, an array of groundbreaking deals. More than 72,500 trade visitors and 1200 exhibitors are expected across the event’s five-day run.
“Emirates’ orders today will be delivered from 2022, taking the airline well into the 2030s. Some of these will be replacements so that we maintain a young and efficient fleet, and others will power our future network growth,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
He added: “We see the 787 as a great complement to our 777 and A380 fleet, providing us with more flexibility to serve a range of destinations as we develop our global route network.”
Boeing’s twin-engine, U.S.-made 787-10 has been a focus of U.S. President Trump since he came into office, part of his ‘buy American, hire American’ push.
Emirates’ business has suffered under Trump’s travel bans affecting predominantly Muslim nations, as well as the recent ban on laptops in airplane cabins. Emirates said it slashed 20% of its flights to the U.S. in the wake of the restrictions, though Dubai International Airport remains the world’s busiest international travel hub.
Also at the Dubai Airshow, Emirates also unveiled what it’s branding a ‘game-changer’ in the first class travel market. The Dubai-based carrier’s upgraded 777 fleet will see the introduction of the world’s first fully enclosed private suites, described by Emirates President Sir Tim Clark as akin to “a six-star hotel room” in the sky.
The new six-suite first class cabin features leather seating, hi-tech control panels, mood lighting and floor-to-ceiling doors, as well as face-to-face screen-based cabin crew contact, food delivery hatches to protect client privacy and virtual ‘windows’ in the central suites of the 1-1-1 configuration.
The first aircraft in the fleet, flown into Dubai Airshow from Seattle for the unveiling, will shortly begin flying on the airline’s Brussels and Geneva routes, with plans to expand throughout the network as an additional seven or eight refurbished 777-300ERs are completed, before the new look is adapted for the upcoming fleet of next generation 777x.
While the Emirates deal was a big one, it was a far cry from 2013 Dubai Airshow, when airlines made $140 billion in new orders before the collapse of global oil prices. Prices have rebounded recently to around $60 a barrel.
Other airlines than Emirates are taking part, but missing from the trade show this year is one of the region’s largest long-haul carriers, Qatar Airways, amid a diplomatic fallout between Qatar and four Arab nations.
With files from The Associated Press