DUBAI (Reuters) – Middle Eastern airlines are set to order tens of billions of dollars worth of long-haul jets when the Dubai Air Show opens on Monday, as Emirates renews its confidence in the delayed Boeing 777X as it faces new competition from rivals. Like Turkish Airlines.
Host airline Emirates and sister airline Flydubai are expected to make their mark early on the world’s second-largest aviation event, despite concerns about the decline in the economically important travel sector due to the war in Gaza, aviation industry sources said.
This includes a new order for 90 Boeing 777X jets, they said, in a boost for a program plagued by continuing uncertainty over the schedule for the world’s largest twin-engine plane, currently expected in 2025 after a five-year delay.
Such a deal would likely be worth approximately $40 billion at list prices depending on the submodel chosen.
Emirates and Boeing declined to comment.
People familiar with the key program said risks are on the rise for further delays as Boeing first gauges the impact of stricter certification rules on other projects. Boeing said on Friday that there had been no change to its flight schedule.
Emirates is the world’s largest user of wide-body aircraft, including the giant Airbus A380 and the current generation Boeing 777. It has said publicly that it is considering more orders for the upgraded 777X as well as the smaller Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.
Of these aircraft, the 787 is unlikely to be offered immediately.
A parallel order from Emirates Airlines for competing Airbus A350 aircraft appears to be on hold, as last-minute negotiations focused on the terms of an engine deal with Rolls-Royce, aviation industry sources said. None of the companies agreed to comment.
Flydubai uses medium-range Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and is scheduled to order more of the plane on Monday, sources said. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Industry officials estimate that airlines around the world are negotiating behind the scenes to buy about 700-800 new planes, including 200-300 of the world’s largest, as they catch up on fleet replacement plans that were shelved during the pandemic.
How many of these bids will come to fruition in time before the show, which will be held from November 13 to 17, depends on the state of negotiations and competition for the spotlight, as Gulf groups face an ever-widening circle of competition.
Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) entered the show’s agenda on Saturday after the state-run Anadolu news agency announced it was in talks to buy up to 355 Airbus aircraft.
After further talks, industry sources said the airline may announce at least part of the deal on Monday.
It said it was in discussions for up to 600 planes in total, which would likely be split between Airbus and Boeing.
One source in the Middle East described the possibility of a Turkish request as a “bold move,” increasing competition in the event.
However, other sources said that speculation about a large order from Dubai for narrow-body aircraft from the region’s newest player, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Airline, as early as Dubai, was premature.
The airline, which hinted at a decision in the coming weeks, declined to comment.
Dubai, the aviation powerhouse, organizes the biennial Aviation Pageant against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza which has led to increased demand for weapons and the closure of airspace, making flights longer and more expensive for some airlines.
Travel analysis firm ForwardKeys said on Friday that flight bookings have declined worldwide since October 7.
She said that bookings to the Middle East decreased by 26%.
“There is sufficient statistical evidence, at least in the short term, to show that there has been a significant decline in ticket sales in the region,” said Daniel Silk, director of Cape Town-based political consultancy Futures.
Analysts said the war in Gaza is likely to boost demand for weapons on top of the increase the country has witnessed over the past 18 months as the United States and its allies re-arm Ukraine against Russia. However, there are expected to be a few major arms deals at the show.
(Reporting by Tim Heffer, Alexander Cornwell and Bisha Majid; Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Hugh Lawson and Lisa Shoemaker
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