Boeing 777-8X & 777-9X Artwork

Middle East carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar ordered almost 400 aircraft at the Dubai Air Show over the weekend, flagging the massive expansion plans the airlines have for the next decade.

The biggest order came for Boeing’s yet-to-be-developed Boeing 777-X series aircraft, which is capable of carrying up to 450 passengers and will be introduced towards the end of the decade.

The three airlines, which already operate Boeing 777 aircraft, signed firm commitments for a combined 225 Boeing 777-8X and 777-9X planes.

Emirates’ order alone was the largest ever by value in the history of civil aviation and at the same time, the Dubai-based carrier also signed on for an extra 50 Airbus A380 planes, which will take its fleet to 140 superjumbos.

The airline now has a firm order book of 385 aircraft (excluding options or purchase rights), comprising 214 Boeing 777s, 101 Airbus A380s, and 70 A350s at a total estimated value of USD$ 166 billion.

“Air transport is a key enabler of world trade, and we see that demand for aviation services will continue to grow globally,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

“What we’re announcing today is a continuation of our commitment and vision to connect the world through our efficient hub in the Middle East.

“Emirates’ aircraft orders today, with deliveries of the 777X scheduled to start in 2020, will take us to 2025 and beyond – replacing aircraft due for retirement and providing the foundation for future growth.”

Etihad’s order included 142 aircraft, comprising 25 next-generation Boeing 777X aircraft, 30 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners and 87 Airbus twin-jets (50 Airbus A350 XWB and 36 Airbus A320neo).

“This is a significant, timely and essential order for us, as we celebrate our tenth anniversary and plan for our next decade and beyond,” said James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways.

“In just 10 years, we have grown from a start-up carrier to a global airline. This order enables us to build upon our achievements, using the next generation of aircraft to support our next generation of development,” he said.

While they may have made the smallest order, Qatar’s was one of the most significant, becoming the first airline to sign on the dotted line for the Boeing 777-X series.

“For Qatar Airways, the Boeing 777 is our flagship aircraft. It has been the backbone of the fleet,” said Qatar Airways’ Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

“Operational on many of the routes Qatar Airways flies to, it is well admired by our crew and passengers alike; it is simply a fantastic aeroplane.

“The Boeing 777 fits into the airline’s strategic growth plan and that is, to offer an extensive route map with optimal connectivity and ultimately – to be the airline of choice for customers, whether it is for long-haul, short-haul, business and / or leisure travel,” he said.

With Australia one of the most important markets for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, the nation is expected to be at the top of the list to receive the first of the next-generation jets.