Dubai Airshow kicks off as industry looks beyond pandemic

Nov 14, 2021

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The Dubai Airshow formally opened on Sunday, the first major show since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020.

The last pre-pandemic airshow, which took place in Singapore in February, 2020, was a muted affair as the global airline industry began to recognize the severity of the novel coronavirus that was spreading around the world at an unstoppable pace.

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The Dubai show begins at an inflection point for the world’s airlines. Travel demand is recovering swiftly but remains muted, with the Asia-Pacific market lagging markets in North America and Europe.

Airlines and planemakers also remain wary of rising fuel prices and a global supply chain disruption.

The Dubai Airshow is typically smaller for civil aviation than the biannual Paris and Farnborough airshows, and is split between commercial and defense. But there are a few notable items expected this year — partly because Dubai was the first such show to return.

Boeing is on-site with its first flying 777X, which it will be showing off in several on-the-ground and flying displays. Boeing has 351 orders from Dubai-based Emirates for the 777X, but has irked customers as the first delivery date has slipped to 2024, years past the original deadline.

Both Airbus and Boeing are expected to discuss — and possibly unveil — freighter versions of its newest aircraft as global shipping demand has skyrocketed. Airbus is due to announce an A350 freighter, and a Boeing 777X freighter is also widely expected.

Elsewhere at the show, held at Dubai’s Al Maktoum Airport (DWC), sustainability and the broader travel industry recovery are expected to be among the major themes discussed.

More: United CEO talks travel: Boeing 767s will return to JFK, future of 50-seat regional jets uncertain

One thing that isn’t expected: major orders from U.S. or European carriers. Those airlines typically do more business at other airshows, while Dubai has historically been a bigger deal for Gulf carriers. Nevertheless, those airlines are major customers with significant sway over planemakers.

TPG is on-site at the airshow and will be reporting daily, so be sure to check back for updates.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

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