Dubai Airshow opens with no big purchase announcements

By AYA BATRAWY Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The biennial Dubai Airshow opened its doors Sunday without any major purchasing deals announced, instead giving Arab Gulf carriers an opportunity to showcase the latest and newest aircraft in their fast-growing fleets.

Dubai-based Emirates displayed its 68th brand new double decker A380 aircraft, which was delivered directly from Airbus to the airshow site. Qatar Airways is displaying three of its aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A380 and the A350.

In the last airshow two years ago, deals worth more than $140 billion for new Boeing and Airbus planes were announced by the four main airlines in the region: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and budget carrier flydubai. No large purchases were announced on the opening day of this year’s airshow largely because previous orders for planes and parts are still being processed.

The Dubai Airshow is seen as an increasingly important barometer of the state of the aviation industry and the rising roles of the big-spending Gulf carriers as they compete for routes and critical stopover traffic between Asia and Europe and to the Americas.

In Dubai alone, aviation contributes to 28 percent of the emirate’s gross domestic product, or about $22 billion. For a young generation of Gulf Arabs, the growing aviation industry also offers thousands of new jobs. In the Middle East, 40,000 pilots and 53,000 technicians will be needed in the next two decades to keep up with demand, according to a Boeing forecast.

The Dubai Airshow this year includes 1,100 exhibitors from around the world with 150 from the U.S. The five-day show is expected to draw around 65,000 visitors and includes a flying display by fighter jets such as the Rafale, Typhoon, F-16 and F-22.

The site of the airshow at the new Dubai World Central airport’s grounds reflects the region’s rapid growth in the aviation industry. Dubai hopes the new airport will be the largest in the world and the most frequented transit hub.

Flight safety and security at airports across the region are a concern following the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian plane after it left Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board. Security officials at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport have said the facility has long had gaps in security, including a key baggage scanning device that often is not functioning and lax searches at an entry gate for food and fuel for the planes.

Emirates airlines President Tim Clark said Sunday at the start of the airshow that Egypt is “an enormously important market” to the carrier and that it is important that it maintains its operations in the North African country. He said, however, that Emirates is reviewing its procedures relating to security, ground handling and access to aircraft while they are on the ground in Egypt. The Dubai-based carrier operates two daily roundtrip flights linking Cairo with Dubai, but does not fly to Sharm el-Sheikh.