Planemakers eye further deals at Dubai Airshow
Global aerospace firms at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday sought to build on signs of a tentative recovery from a global pandemic that has shattered the industry's profits, while talking up efforts to address concerns over climate change. After major orders for narrowbody jets and a new freighter earlier this week, Airbus secured a tentative deal for up to 30 A320neo narrowbody jets from Kuwait's Jazeera Airways.
Both airlines and suppliers have seized on signs of an industry recovery in Dubai, using the deadline of air show publicity to try to win last-minute concessions on new deals. Confirming a Reuters report, Nigerian carrier Ibom Air, owned by the Akwa Ibom state government, signed up for 10 A220s.
Tentative or firm orders for jets neared the 400 mark led by Airbus, but were mainly restricted to narrowbody models that are in highest demand from low-cost carriers like Europe's Wizz Air. "I believe this is a sign of recovery. The second half of the decade when most of these aircraft will be delivered is a long time from now, so it is reasonable to expect that at that point traffic will exceed pre-COVID levels," said independent aviation adviser Bertrand Grabowski. "It is also reasonable to expect that those who emerge from the crisis with lower costs and higher efficiency will win."
A major question marks hangs over demand in Asia, previously the engine of new jetliner demand, executives said, while some fretted over the concentration of orders among a few names. The deal between Airbus and Kuwait's Jazeera comes after the airline's chairman, Marwan Boodai, told Reuters this month the budget carrier was aiming to buy jets worth up to $2 billion.
Indian startup Akasa Air, backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, was expected to finalise an order for around 70 Boeing 737 MAX jets, in a move that will help the U.S. planemaker regain lost ground in a fast-growing market. Boeing is also relying on the order to lend fresh support for MAX which remains grounded in China following an almost two-year safety ban that was lifted in the West late last year.
Akasa said last month it expected to start flying next year after getting initial regulator clearance to launch the country's latest ultra-low-cost carrier. Reuters reported in September that Boeing was close to winning an order for 70-100 jets from Akasa, pending separate talks on a long-term engine service deal.
BORDER RULES Demand for wide-body jets underpinning the big Gulf travel hubs like Dubai and Doha, whose carrier Qatar Airways is absent from this year's show, remains thinner as international travel has been the slowest to pick up following the COVID downturn.
"Once we see the relaxation of borders, entry requirements and all the other paraphernalia with people travelling these days...then you will see the bounceback in the countries that we are now flying to," said Emirates president, Tim Clark. The Emirates executive urged Boeing to give firm dates for its delayed 777X, saying certification uncertainty had upended the carrier's growth plans. Boeing had no immediate comment.
Emirates is the largest customer for the previous version of 777 and the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Airbus has stopped producing the world's largest passenger jet because of slow sales. Clark, who has been among the biggest champions for the A380, predicted the double-decker would prove its mettle when travel recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. Some other industry leaders predicted a move towards smaller and more flexible jets.
But as supply chain problems bite manufacturing worldwide, Clark said Airbus had not so far been able to give a date for "even the last" A380 delivery which had been due mid-December. He also noted labour shortages were impacting the industry.
An Airbus spokesman said, "All deliveries are agreed with the customer and it is the customer's privilege to announce them."
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