Emirates Airlines kicked off the Dubai Air Show on Sunday with a huge order for 50 long-range Boeing 777 jetliners, valued at $18 billion. This is the single largest commercial airplane order in Boeing's history by dollar value.

With this order, the Middle Eastern carrier establishes yet another milestone for its rapid expansion program.

The deal also establishes 2011 as the best selling year for Boeing till date, surpassing the previous record of 154 orders set in 2005.

With the Emirates order, the 2011 net order book for the 777 currently stands at 182. The options for 20 additional airplanes is valued at $8 billion. 

We have an ambitious and strategic plan to continue growing our international network and especially increasing our long-haul, non-stop routes. This order supports our fleet expansion and reiterates our commitment to operating a modern fleet for the benefit of our passengers and to ensure operational efficiency as well, saiid Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline & Group.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Emirates, which recently reported a 76 percent plunge in first-half net profit due to a $1 billion fuel cost rise, now operates a fleet of 95 777s, making it Boeing's most profitable plane.

This fleet jetliners has been obtained by Emirates through direct purchase and lease, plus additional unfilled orders on backlog for 41 777-300ERs previously on order.

The first Boeing 777 delivery by Emirates took place in 1996, following which the airline has deployed the 777 on short, medium and long-haul routes.

As the largest operator of the 777 in the world, Emirates has played an important role in development of the airplane and its input over the years has been invaluable in the development of the 777 program, stated Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Apart from the Emirates Airline, the current year also witnessed rapid expansion strategies by other Middle East carriers, including Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi's Etihad.