Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, officially opened the 15th Dubai Air Show on Sunday morning, touring the various stands and talking to exhibitors.
He was accompanied to the biennial show by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
“Today we opened the Dubai Air Show at Al Maktoum International. This year’s is the largest exhibition since the show launched in 1989, with 1,200 civil and military aviation companies, 260 official delegates and 72,000 aviation specialists attending,” wrote Shaikh Mohammad on Twitter following his visit.
Touring the airline chalets and exhibitions, the trio inspected new planes, and eventually inaugurated the show by cutting a blue ribbon.
Dubai Air Show is a global platform for the aviation industry to sell its new wares, as the public and private sector meet to discuss new technologies, opportunities, and hurdles facing the industry.
The spectre of slow global growth and the need to improve productivity and efficiency are two such hurdles, and were expected by analysts to be among the main trends to define the show this year.
For the 1,200 exhibitors present at the show, that will mean fewer deals than previous years.
Around $37.2 billion (Dh136.5 billion) worth of deals were signed at the Dubai Air Show in 2015, nearly one fifth of the more than $200 billion worth of deals signed in the previous version of the show in 2013.
The first big announcement of the five-day event came when Emirates, Dubai’s flagship carrier, unveiled its first class, business class, and economy class cabins on the Boeing 777-300. It did not however, announce a deal with manufacturer Airbus for a raft of new A380 jets, as some anticipated.
The deal for over 30 aircraft, thought to be worth as much as $16 billion at list price, never materialised on Sunday.
Emirates did not leave empty-handed, however.
It signed a deal with Boeing worth some $15.1 billion for 40 787 Dreamliners.
Analysts say that Airbus is in need of a boost following sluggish growth this year compared to rival Boeing, as carriers opt for smaller, more efficient jets.
The rivalry between Airbus and Boeing has historically punctuated the air show, among the military displays and the latest commercial aircraft on show.
Analysts say the key narrative of the week is likely to be an overall slowdown in the market, and the regional issues facing the Gulf airlines.
“More modest growth and concern about the political challenges faced by the region and globally [are likely to be the main trends], all of which can impact airlines and demand for aircraft,” said John Strickland, aviation expert and director of air transport consultancy JLS Consulting.
The 2013 edition of the Dubai Air Show saw bulks of orders from various airlines, with Emirates placing its largest ever order at that show for a total of 200 aircraft — a mix of Airbus and Boeing — at a combined value of $99 billion.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said that growth this year was being challenged by the excess capacity from airlines.
“The key theme for me this year will be turning capacity into profitability. While Emirates’ first half results have shown a superb turnaround, the reality is that there are still too many fringe players in the GCC ...” he said.