FARNBOROUGH 2008: Crisis, what crisis?

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UAE national carrier Etihad Airways blew away the gloom of the aviation industry in one three-hour shopping spree that is potentially the world’s biggest ever aircraft order from a single airline..

Etihad Airways showed that the airline industry’s fuel crisis will not divert its mega-ambitious growth plans as it splashed out $21.4 billion at the show yesterday.

The Abu Dhabi based carrier placed firm orders for 100 new Airbus and Boeing airliners which along with options and purchase rights with both major manufacturers for a further 105 aircraft could push the deal to more than $43-billion.


The deal smashed the previous airshow record of $34.9m placed by rival Emirates at the Dubai show last November.

“This is a momentous day for Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi,” says James Hogan, Etihad chief executive “It reflects the strength and pace of economic growth in the emirate and the integral role Etihad will play in Abu Dhabi’s future.

Etihad opened its account in the early afternoon with an order for 35 787-9s and 10 777-300ERs worth $9.4bn. It also took a further 25 787 options and 10 777 options, as well as 10 787 purchase rights and 5 777 purchase rights.

The first 777s will arrive from 2011 with the 787s entering service from 2015, Hogan says. The 777s will be powered by GE90 engines while the 787 engine choice will be revealed in the “coming weeks or months”.

Later in the day, Etihad continued its spending spree with firm orders for 55 Airbus aircraft, including 10 A380s, in an order worth $12bn. The other firm orders are for 20 A320 aircraft and 25 A350XWB aircraft. While the latter will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, negotiations continue for powerplants on the other two types.


In addition, Etihad took options on five A320s, 10 A350s and five A380s, together with purchase rights for a further 15 A320s, 15 A350s and five A380s.
Hogan says: “That future will see planned investments in infrastructure and projects within the emirate likely to exceed $200bn during the next 10 years, an aggressive tourism push and enormous residential development.”

He describes Abu Dhabi as a “natural hub and a new hub that is developing”, and maintains it can succeed despite its close proximity to Dubai and its home carrier Emirates. “I believe there is enough opportunity in our region to sustain the growth of both carriers,” says Hogan. “There is enough traffic to move over these hubs in their own right.”

Etihad wasn’t the only Gulf carrier to be in order action on the first day of the show. FlyDubai, the low-cost start-up being established by the Dubai government, pitched in with orders for 54 Boeing 737-800s worth $4 billion.