DUBAI/PARIS — Boeing looks set to dominate next week’s Dubai Airshow with more than $100 billion of deals as it aims to launch its latest long-haul jet with up to 250 potential orders from as many as five airlines, industry sources said.
The U.S. planemaker is pressing ahead with the launch of its 777X mini-jumbo despite uncertainty over where it will be made.
Bulging civil and military bank balances in the Gulf remain a magnet for Western aerospace executives as they seek to tap thriving demand for jetliners and combat aircraft that offer some respite from defence cuts at home.
A widely expected potential order for as many as 150 of the new 777X passenger jets from Dubai flag carrier Emirates could come close to matching the $62 billion of deals amassed at the last Dubai show two years ago.
“Dubai’s success is related to its airlines. It’s a global hub now and Dubai did this by buying planes and constantly renewing its fleet,” said John Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at Riyadh-based asset management firm Masic.
“Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also investing billions in aviation to be able to connect to the world. These states have to continue to invest if they want to expand.”
After playing cat and mouse with rival Airbus in the market for big twin-engined jets, industry sources say that Boeing is expected to launch the 777X on Sunday with the record Emirates deal and 25 jets for Abu Dhabi’s Etihad.
Depending on final negotiations, which historically provide some last-minute drama at such shows, Boeing could also announce orders for dozens of 777X jets from Qatar Airways and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific during the Middle East’s largest business event, which runs from Nov. 17-21.
The 777X launch is expected to include confirmation of a tentative 34-plane order from Germany’s Lufthansa.
Whether Boeing can reach around 250 launch orders depends partly on uncertainty over whether it can close a potential deal for around 20 777X with Cathay, but the new plane is heading for a haul of above 200 orders, industry experts said.
SPUR FOR GROWTH
Leading Gulf airlines have made Boeing’s long-distance 777 warhorse and other big jets a spur for growth as they redraw the world’s aviation and logistics map around the Gulf.
The revamped 777X is the largest twinjet yet designed and will come in two versions, seating 350 to 406 people. It is Boeing’s response to the Airbus A350-1000, which will seat 350 in three classes or about 380 people in two classes.
Boeing has had to overcome disagreement among potential buyers over the design of the 777X, with Gulf airlines pushing for high capacity with the stamina of four-engined jets. But a person familiar with the design said it may suffer restrictions on payload for the longest trips from the Gulf.
Boeing hopes the air show will also mark a turning point for the 787 Dreamliner after its temporary grounding this year because of melting batteries. Industry sources expect orders to top 1,000 in Dubai as Etihad buys a further 30, while Airbus is in negotiations to sell competing models of its A350.