Arch rivals Boeing and Airbus are to share the spoils of a blockbuster order for 100 aircraft worth US$20.4bn from Etihad Airways.
Along with yesterday’s order for US$4bn from FlyDubai, the news came as a lifeline to an aviation industry reeling from record oil prices. The overriding fear of this year’s Farnborough Airshow would be cancellations due to a crisis in the airline industry, with fuel costs butchering margins and forcing carriers to cut routes.
However the oil-producing states are now snapping up new aircraft with the extra revenue earned from rocketing crude prices. Meanwhile the fuel costs, along with the global economic slowdown, are encouraging airlines worldwide to invest in more energy-efficient planes, whilst forcing the less efficient to collapse.The United Arab Emirates national carrier has ordered 45 Boeing aircraft worth over US$9bn and 10 superjumbo Airbus A380s, 25 extra wide-bodied A350s and 20 single-aisle A320s, collectively worth US$11bn.
There are also options for a further 25 Boeing 787s and 10 Boeing 777s. In addition, Etihad Airways has agreed purchase rights for a further 10 Boeing 787s and five Boeing 777s. Aircraft deliveries will begin in 2011 and be completed in 2020.
Etihad Airways’ chairman His Highness Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan and Etihad chief executive James Hogan announced the order.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, started in 2003, added at the Farnborough airfield that it was considering the purchase of an additional 105 passenger planes shared between Airbus and Boeing and worth about 22.6 billion dollars.
James Hogan said: “This is a momentous day for Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi. It reflects the strength and pace of economic growth in the Emirate and the integral role Etihad will play in Abu Dhabi’s future.
“That future will see planned investments in infrastructure and projects within the Emirate likely to exceed US$200 billion during the next 10 years, an aggressive tourism push and enormous residential development. We are extremely proud to play a leading role in realising these exciting plans in the years ahead.
“The size of our order also mirrors the rising prominence of the Middle East and its increasing emergence as a new focal point of global aviation. The Gulf is also a natural air bridge between East and West offering the fastest air links for travellers and freight forwarders.”
A key selection criterion in the deal has been the environmental performance of the aircraft. Mr Hogan added: “The new generation Boeing aircraft we have ordered are amongst the most fuel efficient and will help maintain Etihad’s fleet as one of the youngest and greenest in the sky.”
Boeing chairman, president and chief executive officer Jim McNerney, said: “We count Etihad as an outstanding, world-class customer, and congratulate the airline on its remarkable growth. Boeing’s commitment to provide the world’s most fuel efficient airplanes is clearly demonstrated by both the 777 and 787, and we know Etihad will benefit from the reliability and efficiency these airplanes bring to twin-aisle operations.”
Etihad Airways’ chairman His Highness Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan said: “The story of Etihad’s growth has been a remarkable one. At every stage of our short history we have surprised people with the scale of our ambition - and at every stage we have delivered on that ambition.
“This Boeing aircraft order is another major step forward in our journey and will enable us to continue our exciting expansion plans by adding new destinations to our growing global network and fulfil our aspirations of bringing Abu Dhabi to the world.”
Since its establishment in 2003, Etihad Airways has been recognised as the fastest growing airline in commercial aviation history. It serves 45 global destinations currently covering Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and North America and this year is on course to carry six million passengers.
So far this year, the airline has started new flights to Beijing in China. August will see Chennai (Madras) and Kozhikode (Calicut) in India, and Minsk in Belarus added to the network. Etihad will also launch new services in December to Moscow in Russia and Almaty in Kazakhstan.