DUBAI: Airbus signed two mammoth deals for its A320 and A350 aircraft worth US$30 billion at Dubai’s air show Monday, with Boeing managing only a US$1.2 billion sale of its troubled 737 MAX.
The deal with Turkish carrier SunExpress was “the first firm order” for the 737 MAX since it was grounded in March, a source at Boeing said.
Emirates Airline, the largest carrier in the Middle East, inked a US$16 billion agreement to buy 50 Airbus 350-900 widebody aircraft, as it reorganises its fleet after cutting orders of the A380 superjumbo.
Emirates’ fleet stands at a whopping 261 large aircraft, including 113 Airbus A380 superjumbos and 158 Boeing 777 planes.
Its move earlier this year to cut 39 aircraft from its total A380 orders prompted Airbus to pull the plug on the costly plane, which airlines have struggled to fill to its capacity of 500-850 people.
At the time, Emirates said it would buy smaller A330 and A350 models instead in a deal worth US$21.4 billion.
The airline said that Monday’s announcement replaces an agreement from February when Emirates had announced its intent to purchase 30 A350s and 40 A330Neos.
Sheikh Ahmed said the decision “follows a thorough review of various aircraft options and of our own fleet plans” but he did not rule out the possibility of discussions on the A-330Neos in the future.
The airline said the A350 would enable it to serve a range of new markets, including on long-haul routes up to 15 hours of flying time from its base in Dubai.
“It is very good news for Airbus,” the European aerospace giant’s CEO Guillaume Faury said at the air show, adding he was “very proud that Airbus 350 has been selected by Emirates”.
In the second big deal of the day, Air Arabia said it would buy 120 Airbus A320s in a purchase worth US$14 billion that represents a major expansion for the United Arab Emirates low-cost carrier.
Air Arabia, which currently operates 53 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, will triple in size after the new planes arrive from 2024, allowing it to move ahead with plans to add new routes to its network which takes in 170 destinations.
“We are glad to announce today one of the region’s largest single-aisle orders with Airbus to support our growth plans,” said CEO Adel al-Ali.
Air Arabia last month announced an agreement with Abu Dhabi-based giant Etihad Airways to launch a new low-cost airline based in the UAE capital, to be known as Air Arabia Abu Dhabi.
In a consolation prize for Boeing, Turkish carrier SunExpress said it was buying 10 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, on top of a previous order for 32 of the aircraft, in a show of support for the grounded model.
“We have full confidence that Boeing will deliver us a safe, reliable and efficient aircraft,” the airline’s CEO Jens Bischof said.
“However, it goes without saying that this requires the undisputed airworthiness of the model, granted by all relevant authorities.”
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March following the second of two crashes that left a total of 346 people dead.
The crisis is one of the most serious in Boeing’s 103-year history, and has already cost it tens of billions of dollars, amid multiple investigations by US authorities and complaints from victims’ families.
Boeing has said at the Dubai Airshow that it is working with regulators to make the necessary changes to the 737 MAX aircraft to ensure their safe return.
In more bad news for Boeing, Emirates Airline boss Sheikh Ahmed pointed to delays in the delivery of 150 Boeing 777-X, the US manufacturer’s new long-haul aircraft.
The planes were due to be delivered in June 2020, but Emirates is not expecting to receive the first batch before the second quarter of 2021, he said.
Sheikh Ahmad said he anticipates some word on the delivery date over the next few days, and quipped that there is “a lot to be said on the Boeing deal.”