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February 26, 2024
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Day 2 of Dubai Air Show produced some interesting orders and announcements, especially from Middle East-airlines. Including one from Emirates for the A350-900, Etihad’s Greenliner and Air Arabia.

In an overcrowded media room, Emirates’ Sheikh Ahmed confirmed a firm order for 50 A350-900’s at $16 billion in list prices. Deliveries will start in May 2023 and run until 2028.

The order differs from the MoU announced last February, when Emirates said it opted to reduce its A380-backlog from 162 to 123 and opt for 30 A350s and 40 A330neo’s instead. The A330’s are off altogether now, Sheikh Ahmed confirmed, with the A350 the preferred aircraft for operations on routes up to 15+ hours. That’s a partial blow to Airbus’ A330neo aspirations, but CEO Guillaume Faury is confident Airbus will gain other opportunities for the type. The A330’s weren’t in the backlog so far. Faury didn’t say how the production rate will be affected. Remember Emirates orderesd A350s back in 2007 but canceled all 70 in 2014 as it wasn’t confident about the aircraft’s performance.

A happy man too is Rolls-Royce’s Chris Cholerton. He has had to endure serious bashing from Emirates’ Sir Tim Clark, who in September criticized Rolls for its poor performance on the Trent 1000. Until Rolls-Royce ups its game Emirates was unwilling to confirm the A330/A350-orders, he told Airinsight back then. Cholerton confirmed talks with Emirates have been tough but he is confident Rolls-Royce will provide a product that will satisfy the airline. He has no doubts that the XWB84 will be able to perform as expected in the harsh Dubai-environment: “We are used to operating the type here”, he said, most likely referring to Qatar Airways’ experience with the Trent XWB84 and 97. Emirates will have asked for guarantees after it felt it was let down by the performance of the Trent 900s on the last batch of A380s, specifically higher wear of high-pressure compressor blades that Rolls-Royce is having to redesign.

Etihad’s Tony Douglas and Boeing President/CEO Commercial Aircraft Stan Deal embrace the Boeing 787 ‘Greenliner-model. (Richard Schuurman)

News from UAE-rival Etihad too. The airline presented its latest initiative to improve its environmental footprint. It launched the ‘Greenliner’, a green-liveried Boeing 787-9 that will be used for a range of initiatives that include reducing weight, fuel, and thus money. CEO Tony Douglas said this will be done by simple ways like getting rid of re-usable plastics for cutlery, but he wants the catering industry to come up with smart alternatives. ‘Replacing plastic with metal is not the way to go, as it increases weight. We ask smart guys at shows like this to invent new products.’ Using biofuels is another initiative. Etihad has recently used biofuels on a service to Amsterdam, but limited availability limits the more initiatives. The airline is partnering with UAE-based NADOC for biofuels based on algae grown in desert facilities.

Boeing comes into the Greenliner initiative as it shares data to improve aircraft operations, including lessons learned so far from earlier EcoDemonstrator-programs. The first Greenliner-flight will operate to Brussels but fly elsewhere later on.

Etihad updated the media on its Boeing fleet plans, having reduced its Airbus orders earlier this year. Tony Douglas confirmed to Airinsight that the order for the 777X is still firm in the order book, albeit not the original one for 25 that is still showing on the Boeing-website but the reduced number of 6 announced last February. He is in discussion with Boeing about the effect of the program-delay and is unable to tell when Etihad will take delivery of the first 777-9.
Next week, the airline will take delivery of its 37th 787. Once all have been delivered the Dreamliner-fleet will count 51 aircraft, Etihad said. That’s 20 fewer than originally ordered, 30 787-10s and 41 -9s.

Air Arabia CEO Adel Al Ali and Airbus CCO Christian Scherer. In the background the airline’s chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. (Richard Schuurman)

Air Arabia placed the biggest order of the show so far by committing to 120 Airbus-aircraft. Of these, 73 are A320neo’s, 27 A321neo’s, and 20 A321XLRs in a direct purchase worth $14 billion in list prices. The first deliveries will be in 2024 as Airbus is fully booked on the neo-line until then.
Air Arabia will use the aircraft for growing its network into Asia, Europe, and Africa. The XLR will complement the A321LRs that have recently entered service to Kuala Lumpur but offer additional cargo and baggage capacity.
CEO Adel Al Ali was unwilling to discuss how many aircraft will join its new Etihad/Air Arabia Abu Dhabi low-cost joint venture, which should start operations in Q2 next year. Air Arabia has seen since its formation in 2003. It posted an AED 579 million loss last year but since has recovered and booked an 809 million January-September-profit this year, outperforming the best result ever booked in 20917 with still three months to go.

Egyptair leases extra aircraft
Not a ‘big deal’ like the one Air Arabia presented was the contract from Egyptair with lessor AerCap for additional aircraft. The airline will lease two additional Boeing 787-9s, while it will convert 7 Airbus A320neo’s into A321neo’s from its existing contract with AerCap for 15 A320neo’s signed in 2017. The Boeings are for growth and replacement.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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