Emirates' $18bn Boeing order kicks off Dubai Airshow

Dubai-based carrier places order for 50 Boeing 777 jetliners, with options to buy 20 more aircraft
Emirates' $18bn Boeing order kicks off Dubai Airshow
Emirates Airlines chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Sun 13 Nov 2011 01:22 PM

Dubai-based Emirates Airline has placed an $18bn order for 50 Boeing 777s, the aircraft maker’s largest single commercial plane order, at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday.

The carrier, which is ramping up its expansion as it looks to rival European and Asian airlines, also has options for an additional 20 777s valued at $8bn.

“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,” His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group, said in a statement.

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the 777s with a fleet of 97 and a backlog of 41 777-300ERs currently on order. Boeing’s current order book for the twin-aisle commercial jetliner stands at 182, it said in a statement.

Sheikh Ahmed said that the new planes would be financed via a mixture of EU and US export credit, commercial asset-backed debt and Islamic finance products.

The chairman added that the first plane from this batch of orders would be delivered in 2015.

He also denied that the huge Boeing order would have any affect on the carrier's existing order for Airbus A350 aircraft.

Prior to Sunday’s announcement, the Dubai carrier had 96 aircraft on order with Boeing and 143 on order with Airbus.

The order for 50 extra 777s gives the US manufacturer the edge over its European rival, but Airbus said it is not worried by the record announcement struck by Boeing.

“There is no question of claiming any favour. Emirates is already a good customer, they have ordered 93 A380 and they have ordered a lot of aircraft and we are delivering those aircraft and we are happy to have that partnership,” Habib Fekih, president of Airbus Middle East, told Arabian Business on Sunday on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.

“Of course, if they need more capacity and they need the types of aircraft we don’t manufacture, like the 777, then they are most welcome to do it and we have comment on it. We accept this as part of real life,” he added.

Emirates, which has continued to grow rapidly despite the economic downturn, operates 114 destinations in 67 countries. The carrier is ramping up its fleet as it seeks to establish Dubai as an international travel hub. Emirates, which currently has 90 Airbus A380s worth $34bn at list price on order, plans to spend around $4bn annually over the next three to four years, it said in July.

But its exponential growth, alongside Gulf carriers Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, has unnerved older airlines and fuelled mutual accusations of protectionism. The secretary general of the Association of European Airlines, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, in February claimed Gulf carriers were run as part of a national strategy and were a threat to the global aviation industry.

Gulf airlines are expected to continue to grow their fleets despite concerns of a global slowdown. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways may buy an additional 12 aircraft from Boeing, including ten 787 Dreamliners and two 777 jets, while Qatar Airways is expected to place a $6.5bn order for 50 A320neo jets and five A380s from Airbus, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Emirates reported a 76 percent slump in first half net profit to AED827m ($225m) on Nov 3 as rising fuel costs and regional unrest squeezed margins. Net profit declined to AED827m from AED3.39bn in the year-earlier period.

Revenue for the six months to Sept 30 reached AED30.3bn, a 15 percent rise on the AED26.4m generated in the same period a year earlier.

“The global challenges of the past six months have again put Emirates to the test,” said Sheikh Al Maktoum. The company will remain focused on its long-term strategy, he added.

* Additional inputs from Ed Attwood and Shane McGinley

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