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Dubai Air Show: Boeing Soars Above Airbus with Massive Orders

The Dubai Air Show witnessed a resurgent Boeing while Airbus faced engine challenges

by Enrique Perrella

November 16, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of the Dubai Air Show

Boeing emerged victorious over its French rival Airbus at the 2023 Dubai Air Show. The four-day show showcased a robust demand for wide-body jets, marking a significant comeback for Boeing after years of grappling with major safety scandals.

Boeing’s triumph in Dubai was evident from the outset, with the American planemaker securing a staggering 295 aircraft orders by the fourth day.

Photo: Courtesy of the Dubai Air Show

In contrast, Airbus lagged with 86 orders, facing public concerns over the cost and performance of the Rolls-Royce engines that power its Airbus A350 wide-body aircraft.

Emirates: Star of the Show

The show started with a bang on day one, as Emirates, Dubai’s flag carrier, placed a monumental order for 95 Boeing 777X jets, totaling an astronomical $52 billion at list prices.

Photo: Boeing and Emirates announced an order for 90 777X airplanes, including 55 777-9 and 35 777-8 jets. Courtesy of Boeing.

This was followed by a substantial $11 billion order from Emirates subsidiary FlyDubai for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, marking the carrier’s first-ever order for this model.

The Emirates order comprised 55 777-9s and 35 777-8s, totaling 205 units of the 777X wide-body jets. The Dubai-based giant also increased its order of 787 Dreamliners from 30 to 35.

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

The airline demonstrated continued trust in Boeing with a monumental order, despite the 777X program facing delays and deliveries not starting until 2025.

The endorsement from Emirates highlights increasing international travel demand with emphasis on wide-body jets, suggesting a positive outlook for long-haul air travel and the Middle East’s role in driving demand for these aircraft models.

Other Significant Boeing Orders

Following Emirates, Turkish-German airline SunExpress made the second-largest Boeing order, securing 56 narrow-body 737-8s and 34 737-10s. 

Ethiopian Airlines followed suit with orders for 41 737-8s and 26 787-9 Dreamliners. 

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

FlyDubai, SCAT Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and Royal Air Maroc also contributed to Boeing’s success with orders for 30 787-9s, seven 737-8s, and four and two 787-9s, respectively.

Airbus Orders

In contrast, Airbus faced an uphill sales battle at the Dubai Air Show. While the manufacturer secured 86 aircraft orders, it grappled with ongoing deal talks and criticism of the Rolls-Royce engines that come with its A350 variants. 

On day two of the show, Air Baltic, the Latvian flag carrier, placed an order for 30 Airbus A220-300 narrow-body planes, along with an option to purchase an additional 20.

Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s leading airlines, also ordered 11 Airbus A350-900 jets, while EgyptAir purchased 10 of the same model.

Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

Emirates followed with an order for 15 Airbus A350-900 planes. The airline claims that the value of this order is around $6 billion. However, the president of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, voiced his concerns regarding the cost and maintenance of the Rolls-Royce engines which are used in the Airbus A350 planes.

This criticism resulted in a smaller-than-expected order. Rolls-Royce defended its A350-900’s XWB-84 engine, asserting its efficiency, durability, and reliability.

Airbus, which had traditionally dominated at previous Dubai shows, now trailed behind Boeing.

Turkish Airlines Deal Talks

However, in anticipation of the Dubai Air Show, many expected Airbus to make a big sale to Turkish Airlines, with a whopping 355 planes expected to be sold.

Photo: Turkish Airlines, Airbus A350-900. Courtesy of TJ Bearfly.

However, instead of a signed agreement, both parties announced that they had reached an “agreement in principle for a significant commercial aircraft order,” meaning that discussions are ongoing.

Had this order been fulfilled, it would have placed Airbus in a much more competitive position against its forever rival in Dubai.

Boeing’s Resurgence: What Next?

Boeing’s positive performance at the Dubai Air Show marked a remarkable turnaround. The company’s orders nearly tripled compared to the 2021 show and approached its total from the Paris Air Show 2023

This success was significant for Boeing, considering its challenging history, particularly following the two catastrophic crashes of its 737 MAX jets in 2019.

Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

The Middle East’s most significant aviation event showcased Boeing’s triumphs and hinted at future market trends. Saudi Arabia’s newest airline, Riyadh Air, expressed interest in making a narrow-body purchase, although nothing materialized during the show.

Additionally, low-cost Saudi carrier Flyadeal is considering ordering approximately 150 more narrow-body jets. These potential purchases underscore the continued growth and dynamism of the aviation industry in the region.

Photo: Dubai Air Show 2023

The 2023 Dubai Airshow proved pivotal for Boeing, marking its resurgence and dominance over Airbus. The overwhelming demand for wide-body jets, as evidenced by the massive orders, reflects the optimism in Dubai for long-haul air travel and solidifies the region’s importance in shaping the future of the aviation industry. 

As Boeing celebrates its triumph, Airbus faces challenges and ongoing discussions, emphasizing the competitive nature of the aerospace market.