Middle East Airlines Gear Up for Major Jet Orders at Dubai Airshow Amid Regional Tensions

Middle East airlines are poised to place orders worth billions of dollars for long-haul jets at the Dubai Airshow's opening, with Emirates showing renewed faith in the delayed Boeing 777X, despite new competition from competitors such as Turkish Airlines. Despite concerns about a decline in the economically crucial travel sector due to Middle East tensions, hosts Emirates and low-cost affiliate flyDubai are expected to make a significant impact early on at the world's second-largest aerospace event, according to industry insiders. 


This includes a new order for several dozen Boeing 777X jets, providing a boost for the program amidst ongoing uncertainty over the world's largest twin-engined jet's schedule, currently slated for 2025 after a five-year delay. Despite Boeing's assertion that there has been no change to its schedule, insiders familiar with the flagship program have suggested that the risks are skewed toward further delays. Emirates, the world's largest user of wide-body jets, including Airbus A380 superjumbos and current-generation Boeing 777s, has publicly stated that it is considering additional orders of the upgraded 777X, as well as the Airbus A350 and smaller Boeing 787. FlyDubai, which operates Boeing 737 MAX narrowbody jets that compete with the Airbus A320neo, is expected to place additional orders in this category this week. 

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Industry officials estimate that airlines worldwide are negotiating behind the scenes to purchase some 700-800 new jets, including 200-300 of the world's largest, as they catch up on fleet replacement plans set aside during the pandemic. The number of these that materialize in time for the Nov. 13-17 show will depend on the state of negotiations and competition for attention as Gulf groups face increasing competition. Turkish Airlines made headlines at the show on Saturday with news from the state-run Anadolu news agency that it was in talks to buy up to 355 Airbus jets. 

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After further discussions, industry insiders said the airline could announce at least part of the deal on Monday. It has stated that it is in talks for as many as 600 planes in total, likely to be divided between Airbus and Boeing. However, speculation about a large Dubai order for narrowbody jets from the region's newest player, Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Air, as early as Dubai is premature, according to other sources. The airline, which has hinted at a decision in the coming weeks, declined to comment. The biennial aerospace event is being held in Dubai, an aviation powerhouse, against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which is driving up demand for weapons and closing airspace, resulting in longer and more costly flights for some airlines. According to travel analysis firm ForwardKeys, flight bookings have fallen globally since Oct. 7, with bookings to the Middle East down 26%. Analysts have suggested that the war in Gaza is also likely to boost demand for weapons, on top of a surge in the past 18 months as the United States and its allies rearm Ukraine against Russia. However, few major arms deals are expected at the show.

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