Emirates agrees $16bn order for 50 Airbus A350s jets

Deal, however is less than an earlier promise by the Mideast carrier

Dubai-based carrier Emirates announced on Monday it would be buying 20 additional wide-body Airbus A350s, bringing its total order for the aircraft to 50 in a deal worth $16bn at list price. Separately, the Emirati budget carrier Air Arabia announced the purchase of 120 new Airbus planes in deal worth $14bn.

The announcements were the first major purchasing agreements to be unveiled at the biennial Dubai Airshow this year amid a slowdown in mega purchases by the Middle East’s big Gulf airlines. The airshow opened on Sunday and runs until Thursday on the grounds near Dubai’s newest international airport.

The announcement by the Emirates essentially confirms a February order for 30 of the A350-900 planes that Emirates had announced that month and tacks on another 20 of Airbus’ newest generation wide-body aircraft, bringing the total to 50. The deal, however, was originally slated to see Emirates order 70 planes from the French manufacturer - 40 of the A350s and 30 A330-900neo jets, valued around $21.4bn - but all A330 orders were scrapped in favor of bringing the A350 order size to 50.

“Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment,” Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told press. “In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.”

Meanwhile, Air Arabia, which operates mainly out of the emirate of Sharjah, already has a fleet entirely made up of 53 Airbus aircraft - 52 A320s and one A321 Neo. The new deal announced Monday will include 73 A320neos, 27 A321neos and 20 A321 XLRs, with first delivery in 2024.

It comes as one of the country’s main carriers, Abu Dhabi Etihad Group, announced recently a joint venture with Air Arabia to launch Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the first low-cost airline based in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier Etihad Airways said Monday it’s launching one of the world’s most fuel-efficient long-haul airplanes as the company seeks to save costs on fuel and position itself as a more environmentally-conscious choice for travelers. Etihad’s “Greenliner” is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will depart on its first route from Abu Dhabi to Brussels in January 2020. Etihad’s CEO Tony Douglas described the aircraft as a flying laboratory for testing that could benefit the entire industry.

With fuel costs eating up around a quarter of airline spending, Douglas said the goal of the Greenliner is to be 20% more fuel efficient than other aircraft in Etihad’s fleet.

“This is not just a box-ticking exercise,” he told reporters at the unveiling of the initiative at the Dubai Airshow alongside executives from Boeing.

Douglas then added that the aircraft “not only makes sense economically from a profit and loss account point of view, but because it also directly impacts the CO2 because of the fuel burn.”

This year, Etihad flew the world’s first passenger flight using sustainable biofuel made from a plant that grows in saltwater. It also became the first in the Middle East to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution.

Aviation accounts for a small but rapidly growing share of greenhouse-gas emissions — about 2.5% worldwide. But forecasters expect air travel to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Hence, there’s a small but growing movement in Europe and North America that’s shunning air travel because it produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The trend is most prominent in Sweden, where the likes of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg have challenged travelers to confront the huge carbon cost of flying.

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