By Aya Batrawy
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Boeing Co.'s (BA) planned 777X long-haul airliner grabbed the bulk of orders Sunday at the first day of the Dubai Air Show, with at least 225 planes on the books in an eye-popping display of the spending power and aggressive expansion efforts of Persian Gulf carriers.
In total, Boeing says that it netted at least 367 orders in deals believed to exceed $130 billion at the Middle East's premier aviation fair. Boeing CEO James McNerney Jr. called it part of the "largest commercial launch in aviation history" for a planned aircraft: the bigger and more fuel-efficient model of the company's popular 777 wide-body jet.
European rival Airbus opened the five-day air show by announcing a $23 billion order for 50 A380s -- the main competition for the 777X -- by Dubai-based Emirates.The Dubai Airshow is seen as an increasingly important barometer on the state of the industry and the rising roles of the big-spending Gulf carriers Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates as they compete for routes and critical stopover traffic between Asia and Europe and the Americas. This year's edition appears on track to surpass the record $155 billion in deals in the 2007 event before the global economic downturn. For Boeing and Airbus, the Dubai event has become a key battleground for new aircraft and big-ticket orders that can shape the companies' outlooks for years. Boeing received orders for 150 777X planes from Emirates, 50 from Qatar Airways and 25 from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, the U.S.-based manufacturer and the airlines announced in separate news conferences. No total price tag was announced, but it exceeded $100 billion. Boeing also inked deals with Etihad for 30 of its 787-10 Dreamliners and one cargo plane, and with budget carrier flydubai for 111 of its single-aisle 737 models. The Dreamliner deal is an important nod of support in the Gulf for the troubled aircraft, which has suffered groundings in the past year over battery problems. The 777X orders come even as Chicago-based Boeing looks for alternative sites to develop the plane after machinists in the Seattle area rejected a long-term contract.