Dubai: The world’s biggest aircraft manufacturers and airlines will gather this week at the Dubai Air Show, which kicks off amid a backdrop of challenges for the aviation industry.
From the saga of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, which have been grounded globally since March, to macroeconomic factors such as slower economic growth, the toll of all of these has been hitting airlines lately, denting profitability, and hurting outlook.
With nearly $114 billion worth of orders in the last edition of the Air Show in 2017, analysts expect that figure to drop this year.
John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting in London, said he expected the biennial event to be quieter this year, with a focus on Boeing’s efforts to return its 737 Max aircraft to operations. He expected Boeing to be talking to customers to provide assurances of the work it’s doing on the Max aircraft and to discuss the likely timeline for its return to the skies.
Boeing had earlier said that it expects its Max aircraft to resume operations in the fourth quarter of this year, but aviation executives, including the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, remain sceptical about that. The UAE regulator said that even after the aircraft is re-certified, the UAE will conduct its own assessment before permitting its operations again.
Boeing in a statement last week said it plans to focus on “safety, innovation, and partnerships” at the Dubai Air Show, which runs from November 17-21 at Al Maktoum International Airport.
The American manufacturer said it will showcase its portfolio of commercial and defence products and services at the show, as its executives discuss various market opportunities and other topics during the week.
Another key focus at this year’s Air Show, analysts said, will be Air Arabia. The Sharjah-based carrier has been in talks to order over 100 aircraft, and a deal is expected to be announced this week.
Speculations have been rife about whether Air Arabia will ink a deal with Boeing or Airbus, but irrespective of who wins the order, it will come at a time when the airline is rapidly expanding its fleet and operations.
Last month, Air Arabia and Etihad Aviation Group signed a deal to set up a budget carrier based in Abu Dhabi. The new airline, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, will be the fifth UAE-based airline. No details on its operations have been announced yet.
Other UAE carriers have not discussed much of what they’re expecting at the Air Show or upcoming announcements. Emirates Airline said it will be showcasing its full family of commercial and training aircraft, including new liveries for some jets.
“As we count down to the UAE’s flagship event, Expo 2020, it is fitting Emirates is showcasing out aircraft that are helping to promote the world’s greatest show to Dubai Air Show participants and visitors, and the rest of the world closely watching the developments of the event,” said Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group.
From a wider lens, this year’s air show comes against a mixed backdrop. While lower fuel costs compared to last year have helped airlines, other challenges press on. In reporting its first-half earnings this year, Emirates cited stiff competition as a factor that will continue to stifle the industry, as well as unfavourable currency movements.
Around 87,000 aerospace professionals are expected to attend the Dubai Air Show. Conferences at the event will discuss the cargo segment, air traffic management, space travel, gender balance in the industry, and technology.
This year’s Dubai Air Show, running from November 17-21, is not open to the public. The event is only open to industry professionals, with no one under the age of 16 permitted entry, organisers said. Those working in the aviation industry who wish to visit the Air Show may do so by buying a ticket, which is priced at $85 and valid for entry throughout the week. While there will be a flying display every day from 2pm to 5pm, organisers are not setting up any areas for public viewing.