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UAE airlines to let orders fly at Dubai Airshow

UAE airlines to let orders fly at Dubai Airshow
UAE airlines to let orders fly at Dubai Airshow

Big deals expected to prop up global aviation industry.

UAE airlines are expected to steal the show at the region's premiere aircraft exhibition by announcing a good number of new orders and confirming their previous deals.

The five-day Dubai Airshow, which begins today, will also see leading planemakers Airbus and Boeing battle it out for new orders from local and regional carriers amid the shadow of the Boeing 737 MAX's grounding and its possible return by early next year.

Amidst a challenging regional geopolitical situation, the airshow is expected to fly high on an expected announcement from Air Arabia for over 100 Airbus A320neo jets.

Although the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier declined to comment, aviation analysts are confident that it will place the order during the event.

Some defence deals could also give a shot in the arm to the mega event.

Analysts foresee that Jazeera Airways and SalamAir will also opt for the A320neo.

Air Arabia's order may include an option of a mix between the A321neo and A321nex XLR. Kuwait's Alafco could also place an order for more A320neos.

The previous edition of the Dubai Airshow held in 2017 saw a strong order book of $113.8 billion (Dh418 billion), which included a $49.5 billion IndiGo Partners order for 430 aircraft from Airbus and a $27 billion flydubai deal with Boeing. This year's edition will see more than 1,300 exhibitors, 87,000-plus trade visitors and up to 165 aircraft on display.

Haunted by the crash of 737 MAX, Boeing seems to be more focused on soothing the concerns of its customers including flydubai, as well convincing them that there won't be any further delay to the 777X, which is expected to be operational from early 2021.

Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said at a media briefing on Saturday in Dubai that the aircraft maker's maximum focus remains on the return of MAX at the earliest.

"We are interacting daily with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and other regulators around the world; we continue to make progress and have completed initial phase to the changes in aeroplane," he said.

Deal said the US firm is trying to mitigate the impact on flydubai and other carriers in terms of protecting their planes to ensure that they're preserved well and safe to return once regulators give the nod to resume operations.

"We are in discussions with airlines globally including flydubai to resolve compensation," he said in reply a query.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, says it is likely that Boeing will negotiate with all MAX customers and operators some form of financial redress to make up for the lost opportunities - the grounding is unprecedented in modern times, but while there is pain being suffered by Boeing and its customers, in time, this will come to a close and a new chapter will open moving forward.

"For the here and now, Airbus has limited opportunities to step in and offer the A320neo in any meaningful numbers and with their own production skyline already busy, it is unlikely anyone will want to join the back of Airbus' queue to get the A320neo, especially when Boeing will be in a completely different industrial and financial position 12 months from now," Ahmad said.

About the expectations at the airshow this year, he said much of the focus will remain on the continued grounding of the 737 MAX, Emirates' future fleet strategy as well as the position of Dubai World Central.

Mark D. Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, says Boeing has painted itself into a corner with the 737MAX and has lost the confidence and trust of its biggest allies - its pilots and the traveller.

"Boeing is aware of the solution around the 737 MAX and understands that it needs to make both structural as well aerodynamic changes to the aircraft. Something that should cost the airline a tremendous amount of money per aircraft. This is the only solution they have. On the other hand, I do see Airbus, Embraer, Mitsubishi and several other airlines in the region to step up to the plate and make counter offers to the 737 MAX," Martin said.

With regards to the 787, Boeing's Deal said they are in the middle of discussions with Emirates and it has a great fit in Emirates fleet. "We still see a robust market for the 787."

Ahmad said talk of Boeing 777X orders being traded for 787s at Emirates remains a possibility, but Emirates president Tim Clark has made it clear that he sees up to 190 new aeroplanes in the fleet to replace the existing 777-300ERs.

"So whether that's a combination of 150 777Xs and 40 787s, or a mix of the two, the overall numbers aren't changing."

With inputs from Muzaffar Rizvi

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