Massive orders close out the 2017 Dubai Air Show

It was a nice quiet air show in Dubai this year. Sure, a few orders were signed but nothing massive happened and that seemed to be pretty much okay with everyone. Then day 4 rolled around. Rather than limp quietly into the final hours the 2017 Dubai Air Show closed out with a bang. In the span of a couple hours more than 650 aircraft were ordered representing nearly $70 billion at list prices (though typically airlines pay significantly less. Still the one-two punch of announcements back-to-back makes this year’s show the place to be for aircraft order news. It also raises some interesting points about where commercial aviation is headed.

Airbus scores 430 plane deal

Airbus made the first splash with a 430 aircraft order (MoU, really, but they’ll get to the final papers eventually) from Indigo Partners. “But that’s not an airline,” you say? Sure, but the investment company holds stakes in four airlines: Frontier, JetSMART, Wizz Air and Volaris. The 430 planes will be split among these airlines to support growth in LCC markets around the world.

The Airbus deliveries are split between A320neo and A321neo and doubles the previous A320 family orders for the Indigo Partners family of airlines.

While some older aircraft in those airlines may be retired as the new deliveries happen the bulk will deliver growth in capacity. Wizz Air is poised to be the 3rd largest operator in Europe based on these numbers while Frontier will more than triple (yes, really, 3x!) its fleet. The carrier currently flies 70 A320 family aircraft and now has ~200 on order. Indigo Partners also recently shelved plans to take Frontier public via IPO, adding to the complexity of understanding the carrier’s future.

The Indigo family orders will be delivered between 2021-2026 according to the companies. Airbus says it will not need to adjust its assembly rate to accommodate the new order.

Boeing’s 225 MAX

Not willing to let Airbus hog the spotlight completely, Boeing showed up within the hour holding a 225 aircraft order (MoU, see above) from flydubai. The Dubai-based carrier placed the largest ever single-aisle aircraft order from a Middle East-based airline, with 175 firm 737MAX aircraft and 50 options on the books.

The order is particularly interesting given the new premium cabin product flydubai introduced during the show (very similar to JetBlue Mint, but on the 737 rather than the A320 and fewer rows). The airline is owned by the UAE government, just like Emirates is. The two airlines have been inching closer to each other in recent months with Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark noting that a blend of service types will ultimately be useful.

Therein lies an opportunity. We can merge the seemingly different business model. We can converge our low cost-ish product with theirs. We can supply low cost and full service on the same airplanes. That’s pretty smart, if we can make it work.

Read More: Emirates, flyDubai align closer with codeshare agreement

By upping the premium cabin offering on the flydubai side of the deal Emirates now has options to deliver premium passengers to many more destinations across the region. Emirates also made a purchase at the show, with 40 787-10 Dreamliners set to join the fleet early next decade. Those planes will also help the carrier operate to some destinations with lower demand; currently the vast majority of the fleet is 777-300ER or A380 with 350+ seats on board. With the flydubai 737MAX and 787-10s coming in the combined operation will once again have capacity flexibility available.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.