Sales of grounded Boeing jets lift off at Dubai Airshow

Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier Etihad told the Dubai Airshow this week it will partner with Boeing to launch what it described as one of the world’s most fuel-efficient long-haul aircraft. (AP)
Updated 20 November 2019

Sales of grounded Boeing jets lift off at Dubai Airshow

  • Saudi Arabian budget airline Flynas confirms deal to buy ten long-range Airbus narrow-body planes

DUBAI: Boeing’s 737 MAX took center stage at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday as airlines announced plans to order up to 50 of the jets worth $6 billion at list prices despite a global grounding in place since March.

Kazakhstan flag carrier Air Astana said it had signed a letter of intent to order 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets for its Fly Arystana subsidiary.

Air Astana, which operates Airbus and Embraer jets in its main network, said it was confident in Boeing’s ability to resolve problems with the MAX.

Global regulators banned commercial flights of Boeing’s fastest-selling jet in March after two fatal accidents.

Plans for the jet’s return to commercial service have been pushed back to early 2020 as Boeing finalizes software and training revisions that need regulatory approval.

“We are making flying affordable for the people of Kazakhstan,” Air Astana Chief Planning Officer Alma Aliguzhinova said, adding that budget carrier Fly Arystana would start taking the jets in late 2021.

The airline plans to hold 15 aircraft directly and may finance the rest through a lease transaction, she said, adding that Air Astana would not change the composition of its main fleet.

Separately, another airline signed a firm order for 10 Boeing 737 MAX 7 and 10 Boeing MAX 10 jets, a person familiar with the matter said. The airline’s name was not disclosed.

Boeing has used the past two major industry events to try to secure market momentum for the grounded MAX, which is seen as key to the planemaker’s financial health over the coming decade.

A letter of intent between Boeing and British Airways owner IAG for 200 jets, which grabbed the spotlight at the Paris Airshow in June, has yet to be finalized as the European holding company discusses the fleet change with subsidiaries that use Airbus for medium-haul operations.

In other business coinciding with the largest Middle East air show on Tuesday, Saudi budget airline Flynas agreed to buy 10 long-range Airbus A321XLR jets.

The airline’s chief executive had said on Monday that Flynas was in talks to exercise purchasing options for some or all of 40 Airbus A320neo narrow-body jets.. Airbus unveiled a provisional order in Dubai for eight of its small A220 jets from Air Senegal. Britain’s easyJet exercised options for 12 more Airbus A320neo aircraft.

Also coinciding with the show, leasing giant GECAS was expected to confirm an order for 25 Airbus planes, including 12 A330neo jets powered by engines from Rolls-Royce, a competitor to GECAS parent company General Electric.

However, there were no immediate signs that Dubai’s Emirates was ready to finalize a provisional order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.


Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

Updated 11 July 2020

Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

DUBAI: After a painful four-month tourism shutdown that ended this week, Dubai is betting pent-up demand will see the industry quickly bounce back, billing itself as a safe destination with the resources to ward off coronavirus.

The emirate, which had more than 16.7 million visitors last year, opened its doors to tourists despite global travel restrictions and the onset of the scorching Gulf summer in the hopes the sector will reboot before high season begins in the last quarter of 2020.

Embarking from Emirates flights, where cabin crew work in gowns and face shields, the first visitors arrived on Tuesday to be greeted by temperature checks and nasal swabs, in a city better known for skyscrapers, luxury resorts and over-the-top attractions.

Tourism chief Helal Al-Marri said that people may still be reluctant to travel right now, but that data shows they are already looking at destinations and preparing to come out of their shells.

“When you look at the indicators, and who is trying to buy travel, 10 weeks ago, six weeks ago and today look extremely different,” he said in an interview.

“People were worried (but) people today are really searching heavily for their next holiday and that is a very positive sign and I see a very strong comeback.”

The crisis crushed Dubai’s goal to push arrivals to 20 million this year and forced flag carrier Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, to cut its sprawling network and lay off an undisclosed number of staff.

But Al-Marri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said that unlike the gloom after the 2008 global financial crisis, the downturn is a one-off “shock event.”

“Once we do get to the other side, as we start to talk about next year and later on, we see very much a quick uptick. Because once things normalize, people will go back to travel again,” he said.

The reopening comes as the UAE battles stubbornly high coronavirus infection rates that have climbed to more than 53,500 with 328 deaths.

And as swathes of the world emerge from lockdown, for many travelers their holiday wish lists have shifted from free breakfasts and room upgrades to more pressing issues like hotel sanitation and hospital capacity.

With its advanced medical facilities and infrastructure, Dubai is betting it will be an attractive option for tourists.

“The first thing I’m thinking is — how is the health-care system, do they have it under control? Do I trust the government there?” Al-Marri said. “Yes they expect the airline to have precautionary measures, they expect it at the airport. But are they going to a city where everything from the taxi, to the restaurant, to the mall, to the beach has these measures in place?”

Tourists arriving in Dubai are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight. If not, they can take the test on arrival, but must self-isolate until they receive the all-clear.

While social distancing and face masks are widely enforced, many restaurants and attractions have reopened with business as usual, even if wait staff wear protective gear and menus have been replaced with QR codes.

“When it comes to Dubai, I think it’s really great to see the fun returning to the city. As you’ve seen, everything’s opened up,” Al-Marri said.