QATAR AIRWAYS STEALS THE SHOW AT THE DUBAI AIR SHOW
While Dubai based rival Emirates made the big money headlines with a firm order of 50 B777-300ER and a few more options, in a deal which could be worth 26 billion US Dollars, did Qatar Airways outspoken Chief Executive Officer make different waves at the Dubai Airshow, before then adding the long awaited substance by also announcing a major order for Boeings archrival Airbus Industries worth some 6.4 billion US Dollars. But true to his style and fashion, he first rattled Airbus cage by casually mentioning the European manufacturer ought to learn how to build planes before rubbing in some salt into the wounds some time later by saying: since I said Airbus cant make planes, they have very quickly gone back to their drawing board.
The order, while substantial by any standards, was however almost disappointing in terms of additional A380s ordered, as only 8 more were committed besides the 5 already on order and due to start delivery by next year. Considering that Dohas new mega airport was, by Al Bakers own admission, designed around the A380, there was speculation that the order for the sky giant would go into substantially bigger numbers, though there is still time and other occasions to up the ante once again and catch up with Emirates, which got a staggering 90 of these double decker planes on order.
The main order announced by Qatar Airways though were for the A320Neo, of which 50 were committed with a further 30 options, comprising 30 A320Neos, 14 A321Neos and 6 A319Neos, aimed to boost the airlines ability to collect and distribute traffic from Doha into destinations within the range of these Airbus planes. It is understood from a fellow aviation buff who attended the Dubai Air Show 2011, that the main bone of contention was very likely Qatar Airways demand to be the first airline to receive the A320Neo and make the most of it in terms of future publicity and there is no indication that this was resolved in favour of QR though considering Al Bakers fearsome reputation amongst the top echelons of Boeing and Airbus, it would come as no surprise if he ultimately got his way.
On the same day Qatar Airways also announced the firm purchase of two B777 freighters, which will boost the airfreight division of the Doha based airline considerably in the future.
Meanwhile did other significant developments emerge from the sidelines in Dubai, when Saudia made public a deal with Rolls Royce for engines worth half a billion US Dollars, while Airbus clawed back some territory, earlier on yielded to Boeing which enjoyed the spotlight when Emirates made the largest ever order for the B777, when Spirit announced an order for up to 75 A320 family aircraft, both Neos and the classic version.
Talks were also ongoing between Boeing and leading customers over the development of a B777X version, with in particular Emirates being cited as a driver in the development of a bigger version, probably to needle Airbus over the delay of the A350 series, which in the light of the B787 saga is neither new nor unexpected but still a source of irritation and a cost factor for the launch customers.
While European and North American airlines were also present in Dubai, and some orders were placed by them, these paled into insignificance, well almost, compared to the Gulf based mega carriers trumping each other with new orders, which are expected to top 55 billion US Dollar worth of transactions for the manufacturers or aircraft, engines and other products.
Here again it become apparent, that the present economic climate, which seemingly slows down the taste for expansion by the erstwhile aviation giants in Europe and the United States, has little effect on the Gulf carriers which seem to know for certain that the future belongs to them and they are getting ready for tomorrow. Ready to capture global market share, ready to dominate the headlines of aviation magazines for years to come and most important, ready to dominate the global skies. Watch this space.