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Dubai Air Show: Day One Breaks Records with Massive Emirates Order

Dubai-based Emirates placed an order for 125 widebody Boeing aircraft, while flyDubai unveiled plans to operate the 787 Dreamliner.

by Enrique Perrella

November 13, 2023

Photo: Dubai Air Show 2023

The sun-soaked tarmac of Dubai World Central (DWC) witnessed the grand inauguration of the largest-ever Dubai Air Show. Guided by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the event unfolded with a regal tour, gathering government leaders and industry stakeholders. 

More than a mere spectacle, the 18th edition of this mega-event has emerged as a pivotal platform to redefine the future of aerospace, space, and defense industries. As it unfolds until November 17, the show boasts a remarkable assembly of over 1,400 exhibitors from 95 countries, showcasing over 190 aircraft.

Day One: A Tapestry of Orders

Day one proved to be a dynamic opening act, with industry leaders unveiling a series of groundbreaking deals and collaborations. 

Timothy Hawes, Managing Director of Tarsus Middle East, hailed the day as a testament to industry growth, highlighting the showcase of next-generation features and innovative technologies poised to shape an efficient and sustainable future.

“Today was a true testament to the continued growth we have seen across the industry and serves as the perfect platform to showcase the next-generation features and innovative technologies that will ensure an efficient and sustainable future,” said Hawes. “Day one has seen a series of landmark orders, deals, and launches take place, and we look forward to seeing more over the coming days as industry players from across the world continue to gather in Dubai and collaborate to define the future for aerospace.”

Photo: Dubai Air Show 2023

The battle for supremacy between Airbus and Boeing, the two titans of the aerospace industry, took center stage. 

Despite Airbus’s previous triumph at the Paris Air Show with a 500-aircraft order from Indigo, Boeing emerged as the first-day winner at the Dubai Air Show, securing orders for an impressive 271 aircraft from six carriers and lessors.

Emirates Goes Big: 777X and 787

The UAE’s national carrier, Emirates, made headlines by placing an order for 125 new-generation widebody Boeing aircraft, further solidifying its status as a critical player in the global aviation landscape. 

Despite still undergoing certification, Emirates has shown a significant interest in the Boeing 777X program. The Dubai-based company plans to expand its order for the long-haul Boeing 777 by adding an additional 90 units, with 35 of them being the Boeing 777-8 and the remaining 55 being the 777-9.

Boeing and Emirates announced today that the world’s largest 777 operator has placed an order for 90 777X airplanes, including 55 777-9 and 35 777-8 jets.

“Emirates is the biggest operator of Boeing 777 aircraft, and today’s order cements that position,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates.

“We’ve been closely involved in the 777 program since its start-up until this latest generation of 777X aircraft. The 777 has been central to Emirates’ fleet and network strategy of connecting cities on all continents non-stop to Dubai. We are pleased to extend our relationship with Boeing and look forward to the first 777-9 joining our fleet in 2025.”

Apart from the Boeing 777X, Emirates has also expressed confidence in the successful Dreamliner program. The airline has revised its existing order for the Boeing 787 family, which now includes 35 aircraft: 20 Boeing 787-8s and 15 of the longer 787-10 variant.

Boeing has been doing business with Emirates since 1992 when the airline placed its first order for the 777. Today, Emirates boasts a fleet of nearly 150 777 aircraft. The 777X family, which is based on the highly successful 777, is designed to increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact by 25% while providing an exceptional onboard experience.

Photo: Boeing 777-300ER. Courtesy of Emirates.

“This order is an incredible vote of confidence in Boeing’s highly efficient widebody family and the versatility of our 777X and 787 airplanes to meet Emirates’ needs for global long-haul travel,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The 777-9 and 777-8 are the perfect airplanes to support Emirates’ growth, improving environmental performance and unmatched payload capability along the way.”

FlyDubai’s Long-Haul Ambition

FlyDubai announced a strategic shift by ordering 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, breaking away from its traditional short-haul model with its unique fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft. 

This move signifies FlyDubai’s foray into long-haul routes, presenting an intriguing dynamic alongside its counterpart, Emirates. 

Photo: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, flyDubai. Courtesy of Boeing

Flydubai, which placed its first-ever order for 50 Boeing 737 aircraft in 2008, has come a long way since then and is now ready to open new routes and increase capacity on its existing ones.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of flydubai, expressed his confidence in the airline’s ability to support Dubai’s aviation hub and evolve further to challenge traditional conventions around travel.

Flydubai’s commitment to expanding its network and enabling more people to travel is evident in today’s announcement of an order for the highly fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This aircraft will help flydubai cater to the growing demand on existing routes and expand its horizon.

The $11 billion order aims to expand FlyDubai’s reach to distant destinations in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Africa, marking a milestone in the airline’s history.

SunExpress and the 737 MAX 

SunExpress, a prominent Turkish leisure carrier, stole the spotlight with the most significant single-aircraft order of the Dubai Air show. 

Photo: Boeing 737 MAX 8, SunExpress. Courtesy of Boeing

“Building on the resounding success of our strategy in the post-pandemic period, SunExpress is now poised for next-level growth to meet market demand and achieve a greater international footprint,” said Max Kownatzki, SunExpress CEO.

“Over the next decade, we will more than double our fleet, reaching a 150-aircraft fleet by 2033. Also, the addition of the 737-10, the newest 737 MAX plane with up to 230 seats, to our fleet will allow us to strengthen our capacity further. SunExpress is well-positioned for the future and will expand its network with a more fuel-efficient and environmentally sustainable aircraft fleet while continuing to fulfill its role as Türkiye’s tourism ambassador.”

SunExpress has committed to acquiring up to 90 Boeing 737 family aircraft, which includes 45 firm units and an additional 45 options. As part of this ambitious move, the airline plans to add 28 Boeing 737-8 and 17 737-10 aircraft in the coming years. This will pave the way for SunExpress to exceed 150 aircraft over the next decade.

The Dreamliner Triumph Continues

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program continued to prove its enduring appeal, with two additional airlines placing orders. 

Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s national carrier, confirmed plans to add two more 787-9 aircraft to its fleet. 

Photo: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Royal Air Maroc. Courtesy of Boeing

“The two Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will enable Royal Air Maroc to expand in the short-term its long-haul network in response to the highly favorable market conditions in 2023,” said Abdelhamid Addou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Royal Air Maroc. “Simultaneously, the company is actively pursuing a significant tender to quadruple the fleet before 2037.”

“The 787 Dreamliner is perfectly suited to support Royal Air Maroc’s growth and modernization plans,” said Brad McMullen, Boeing senior vice president of Commercial Sales and Marketing. “Boeing’s relationship with the airline spans more than five decades, and we look forward to more opportunities to strengthen our partnership with Royal Air Maroc.”

Simultaneously, Royal Jordanian expanded its operations with four Dreamliners, supporting its global expansion on long-haul routes.

According to Samer Majali, the vice chairman and CEO of Royal Jordanian, their decision to include the 787-9 Dreamliners in their fleet is proof of their commitment to offering an unparalleled travel experience. The move is in line with their broader strategy of fleet modernization, which prioritizes fuel efficiency, sustainability, and passenger comfort.

Photo: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Royal Jordanian. Courtesy of Boeing

The Dreamliner’s cutting-edge technology is expected to elevate its operational capabilities, and they are confident that it will play a pivotal role in achieving that goal.

Royal Jordanian has been at the forefront of adopting advancements in aviation, having been the first to order the 787 in the Middle East over 16 years ago. The airline’s current fleet of seven 787-8 Dreamliners has successfully connected Amman to major global destinations. The additional order of Dreamliners highlights Royal Jordanian’s forward-thinking approach and commitment to meeting the growing demand for long-haul travel.

Stan Deal, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, expressed his confidence that this order for additional 787s is a testament to Royal Jordanian’s longstanding commitment to the market-leading capabilities of the Dreamliner. He also believes that Royal Jordanian will profitably expand its network and operate a more sustainable fleet with these new fuel-efficient jets.

EgyptAir’s Leap into the Future

EgyptAir has taken a significant step by signing a leasing agreement with Air Lease Corporation (ALC) for 18 units of the Boeing 737-8 variant. This move means that EgyptAir will be operating as a new Boeing 737 MAX series operator by 2025.

EgyptAir has been a loyal customer of the Boeing 737 family since 1975, and this new leasing agreement with ALC will last for an initial period of 12 years, demonstrating the airline’s commitment to adopting the latest aviation technologies.

airBaltic and Airbus A220: A Symbiotic Success Story

airBaltic marked a significant chapter in its history by placing an incremental order for 30 Airbus A220-300 planes. This order cements airBaltic’s status as the largest Airbus A220-300 customer in Europe, with a total firm orderbook for the model reaching 80 aircraft. 

Since becoming the launch customer for the A220-300 in 2016, airBaltic has refreshed its fleet to operate exclusively with these aircraft, aiming to operate 100 aircraft by 2030.

Photo: Courtesy of airBaltic

Martin Gauss, the president and CEO of airBaltic, thanked Airbus for their support, trust, and collaboration. Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International praised airBaltic for being a repeat customer and ambassador for the A220-300.

The A220-300, known for its environmental friendliness with 25% lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat compared to previous generation planes, boasts the largest cabin, seats, and windows in its class, ensuring superior comfort.

Day One: Over and Out

The Dubai Air Show 2023 marks a turning point for the aviation industry as it embraces innovation and ambition. On the first day, there were many orders and collaborations, setting the tone for an event that would shape the future of aerospace. Key players like Emirates, Boeing, and airBaltic are making strategic moves that reflect the industry’s focus on sustainability, efficiency, and technological advancement. As more industry leaders gather in Dubai, we can expect groundbreaking announcements in the coming days, cementing the Dubai Air Show’s reputation as a global hub for aviation excellence.