DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Airbus and Boeing kicked off the Dubai Air Show with a slew of orders from Middle East-based airlines that exceeded expectations. Boeing officially launched its 777X twinjet, which will enter service around 2020, while Airbus scored a major coup for its A380 double-decker with an order for 50 from Emirates Airline, which was expected to order between 20 and 30.
In a joint press conference on the first day of the trade show Sunday, Boeing announced that Emirates had ordered 150 of its new 777X airplanes, and Qatar Airways had ordered 50. That's in addition to an order for 25 from Etihad Airways announced previously on Sunday and a commitment for 34 from Deutsche Lufthansa AG (FRA:LHA) announced in September. Combining those, the 777X has 259 orders for a total of $95 billion. That makes it, according to Boeing, the biggest commercial launch in commercial jetliner history.
The 150-jet order for the 777X from Emirates, valued around $45 billion at list prices, is by far the largest single order in the history of the Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA).
Emirates Airline, the fourth-biggest air carrier in the world by number of international passengers and one of the fastest-growing, also ordered 50 A380, worth $23 billion, from Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company NV (EPA:EAD). Emirates is already the largest operator of the A380, the biggest passenger airplane in the world, with 39 in service. Wih Sunday's order, the Dubai-based carrier is now slated to receive 101 more.
And in what would have been a major announcement on any other day but was overshadowed by the attention-grabbing launch of the 777X, Boeing also said on Sunday that it had booked a commitment for up to 111 of its single-aisle 737 model from flydubai, a low-cost airline. That number includes 100 of the 737 MAx 8, an advanced-engine variant of the 737 that has not flown yet, and 11 of the current model 737-800. The 737 is the best-selling commercial jet in history.
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Boeing also announced on Sunday a major order for its 787 Dreamliner, which has been plagued by technical problems in its first two years in operation but continues to sell briskly, with a total of 1,000 now ordered by airlines worldwide. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways bought 30 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners, which, combined with 41 previous orders for the 787-9 variant, now make it the biggest customer for the 787. Etihad also added to its previous orders for the Airbus A350, the twinjet rival to the 787 (it is buying both). The airline is buying 10 of the largest model, the A350-1000, and 40 of the smaller A350-900, which seats 315 in a typical configuration. Etihad CEO James Hogan also said the airline has ordered 36 Airbus A320 family single-aisle jets and one A330 freighter, for a total of $26.9 billion.
The air show's organizer, F&E Aerospace, said that within three hours of opening, the show’s order tally reached US $162.6 billion. That is the biggest ever order haul at an air show in terms of absolute dollar value. The previous record also belonged to the Dubai Air Show, with $155 billion in 2007.
Aviation trade shows are typically used by manufacturers and airlines to announce large orders they have been negotiating for months. Airlines also usually get discounts on published list prices for such massive commitments.