Dubai Airshow took off on Sunday with huge aircraft orders and commitments worth around $141.5 billion for Boeing and Airbus from Gulf carriers, with the US manufacturer well in the lead.
The biennial show began brightly for Boeing’s 777X, a long-range wide-bodied airliner featuring lower fuel consumption and composite wings.
The new 777 is scheduled to be operational in 2020.
Etihad Airways began the show with an $18.2-billion order for Boeings including 25 777Xs and one 777-200 freighter, Boeing said.
The deal also included an order for 30 787 Dreamliners, making the fast-growing carrier the largest single customer for the medium-body plane.
The Abu Dhabi carrier also announced it was taking an option to buy another 26 aircraft from Boeing.
The total value of the order, including engines and options, amounts to $25.2 billion, according to Etihad.
Emirates Airline followed shortly afterwards by placing orders with both the rival US and European manufacturers, in twin deals valued at $99 billion.
Of this sum, 80 percent is destined for Boeing’s coffers if commitments are confirmed.
The Dubai-based airline ordered 150 777Xs — 35 777-8Xs and 115 of the 777-9X variant.
Boeing said the Emirates orders were commitments worth $55.6 billion.
The Middle East’s largest carrier also boosted the Airbus sales sheet with a firm order for 50 A380 superjumbos worth $20 billion at book value, in the double-decker’s first sale this year.
The order cements the status of Emirates as the single largest operator of the long-haul airliner, its chief Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said.
“Emirates has understood from the start the A380’s advantages in terms of efficiency, economics and passenger comfort,” Fabrice Bregier, Airbus chief and president, told the signing ceremony.
Airbus has been struggling to sell its A380 superjumbo.
World’s largest commercial aircraft
Sales of the world’s largest commercial aircraft suffered in 2012 after hairline cracks were discovered on A380 wings. Just nine were sold last year, down from an initial order of 30.
Airbus also clinched a $19-billion deal with Etihad, which ordered 87 aircraft including 50 extra-wide-body A350 XWBs.
The order comprises 40 long-haul A350-900s, 10 A350-1000s, one A330-200 freighter, in addition to 26 A321neo and 10 A320neo single-aisle planes, in addition to an option for 30 more aircraft.
Emirates budget sister company also made a commitment to buy up to 100 Boeing single-aisled 737 MAX and 11 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800s, in a deal valued by Boeing at $8.8-billion.
Qatar Airways also chipped in by signing a letter of intent to buy 50 Boeing 777Xs worth $19 billion.
The Doha-based airline said it had also ordered five A330 freighters from Airbus, valued at about $1 billion according to list prices.
The order was accompanied by an option to add eight airliners, which would put the overall price of the deal at $2.8 billion, chief executive Akbar Al-Baker said.
The Qatar Airways chief praised Boeing’s 777 long-haul workhorse as he made a surprise appearance at the joint Emirates-Boeing briefing.
The Triple Seven has been a bestseller since it was launched in the 1990s, with 1,473 sold by November 12.
Boeing is fielding the 777X to counter Airbus’s long-haul A350-1000.
This aircraft is anticipated to enter service in 2017 with a passenger payload of 350, threatening Boeing’s predominance in the long-haul market.
Etihad on Sunday also announced it is acquiring a 33.3 percent stake in Swiss carrier Darwin Airline which it plans to rebrand as Etihad Regional after the deal receives regulatory approval.
At the 2007 Dubai Airshow, sales of $155 billion were announced, and analysts have projected that orders this time could nudge that record.
In June, the Paris air show at Le Bourget racked up $115 billion in announced sales at catalogue prices.
The 13th Dubai Airshow, which runs until Thursday, is being held for the first time at the just opened Al-Maktoum International, the emirate’s second airport and touted to become the world’s biggest when complete.
With some 150 aircraft on the tarmac and 1,000 exhibitors, the show cements the Gulf region’s hard-won position as the global hub for 21st century travel, spearheaded by booming airlines whose reach encompasses the world.