Dubai demonstrates its prowess at the air show as competitors tease deals

Airlines in the Middle East are preparing for heightened rivalry as Dubai-based airlines have placed a series of orders at the region's biggest air show, attracting the attention of potential competitors who are also considering their own deals. 


Orders for widebody jets worth $67 billion at list prices were announced at the Dubai Airshow, while Saudi and Turkish national airlines were in the process of finalizing significant orders. Darren Hulst, vice president of commercial marketing at Boeing, highlighted the strategic geographic location of the Middle East, which allows it to connect 80% of the world's population within an 8-hour flight. 

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Dubai International Airport is planning to increase its capacity to 120 million passengers per year by 2026, up from the current 100 million. Saudi Arabia is aiming to expand its international routes from 99 to over 250 and increase annual passenger traffic to 330 million by 2030, up from 109 million in 2019. 

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The kingdom is investing heavily in its aviation sector, including plans for a new national airline and a large airport in Riyadh. This expansion is part of a broader economic rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, Saudi's state-backed start-up Riyadh Air, despite showcasing an exhibition, did not place any firm orders. Turkish Airlines, a key player in the profitable transit market, hinted at an order for over 350 planes on the eve of the show. Airbus confirmed an agreement in principle, but sources indicated that no formal contract had been signed.

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