Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The biennial Dubai Air Show opened Sunday with hometown long-haul carrier Emirates making a $15.1 billion buy of American-made Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners, as the world's biggest defence companies promoted their weapons amid heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Other airlines also are taking part, but missing from the trade show this year is one of the region's largest long-haul carriers Qatar Airways.
The Boeing announcement came after over an hour and a half of delays by Emirates amid rumours of a possible Airbus sale involving its A380 aircraft, a major workhorse for the airline. Journalists asked Emirates CEO and Chairman Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum about Boeing's European competitor Airbus, specifically its A350.
"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.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. already has 171 787-10s on order. among those waiting for the aircraft are Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. Boeing builds the 787 at its plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, which U.S. President Donald Trump visited in February.
Last week, the U.S. plane manufacturer secured an order valued at more than $37 billion at list price for 300 of its single-aisle and double-aisle planes during Trump's visit to China. Trump also was present for the signing ceremony last month between Boeing and Singapore Airlines for 39 new aircraft, including 19 of the 787 Dreamliner, in a deal worth up to $14 billion.
Shaikh Ahmed made a point to say the deal will help create more jobs, long a mantra of Trump. The deal was signed in the presence of Dubai's ruler, Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the United Arab Emirates' prime minister and vice president.
"The order will take Emirates' total (number of) wide body aircraft of the Boeing to 204 aircrafts, units worth over $90 billion," Shaikh Ahmed said. "This is a long-term commitment that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, not only at Boeing but also throughout the aviation supply chain."
The airline's 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 per cent of its flights to the U.S. in the wake of the restrictions. That's in turn hurt Dubai International Airport, the home of Emirates and the world's busiest international travel hub.
Emirates is the world's largest Boeing 777 operator, with 165 in service today.
At the start of the air show, Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East's largest carrier, unveiled new, state-of-the-art, first class private suites.
In an industry first, passenger suites in the middle aisle without windows will be fitted with "virtual windows" relaying the sky outside via fibre optic cameras on the plane. There's also a video call feature in the suites that connects passengers to the cabin crew, as well as temperature control and various mood lighting settings.
Emirates President Tim Clark declined to say how much a ticket in the 40 square-foot (3.7-square-meter) private suite will cost. The private suites will be available on the airline's Boeing 777.
In previous years, major Mideast carriers have flexed their spending power at the Dubai Air Show, including $140 billion in new orders announced in 2013 before the collapse of oil prices. Prices have rebounded recently to around $60 a barrel.
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