This year's Dubai air show, which kicks off on 8 November, almost certainly won't bring a repeat of the orders bonanza that characterised 2013's instalment, with the big-three carriers now bedding in new aircraft and assessing the next steps in their fleet strategies.
Two years ago, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways between them committed to more than 450 aircraft – a mix of launch orders for the Boeing 777X and deals for 787s and Airbus A380s, A320s and A350s. But such a large sales tally looks unlikely in 2015.
Local carrier Emirates can usually be relied upon to deliver some big orders at the event. But the signs are that the show may come too soon for two potential deals the airline is negotiating.
The Dubai airline has been a strong proponent of the A380 and would buy a re-engined version should Airbus decide to create one. But the airline's president Tim Clark rules out a commitment at the air show for more A380s as he thinks it unlikely Airbus will be ready to launch at the event.
"If [Airbus] does develop it, it would be of interest to everybody, and I'd like to see them sell more A380s," he says. Clark also talks down another potential Dubai deal, saying the airline will not choose between the A350-900 and 787-10 until next year. "It will be in 2016 – but when, I don't know – and it will be one or the other," he adds.
Qatar Airways is never slow in coming forward to place orders during the big air shows, but the airline's group chief executive Akbar Al Baker says he has no deals in the offing and expects Dubai to be quiet by comparison with previous events.
Etihad Airways was another big spender at Dubai two years ago, signing for 25 777Xs, 30 787-10s and one 777 Freighter along with 50 A350s, 36 A320neos and an A330-200 Freighter. But chief executive James Hogan has no plans to order more aircraft at the forthcoming show.
"We have the orderbook of aircraft that we need and over that period of time we have the capability to feed those aircraft not only into Alitalia, but into Air Berlin and Air Serbia," Hogan says.
One exception to the trend against placing orders at the show might be Saudia. In an interview with Bloomberg, chief executive Abdul Mohsen Jonaid said the state-owned carrier was looking at replacing its four Boeing 747s with A380s and adding 777s or 777Xs, and that a show order was possible.
Additional reporting by Max Kingsley-Jones and Graham Dunn
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