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Dubai Airshow kicks off as first major aerospace event since COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Updated:

The nuts and bolts of post-pandemic trade loomed over the first major aerospace event since the coronavirus crisis on Sunday, as planemakers touted new freighters plans at the Dubai Airshow.

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Plane giants Airbus and Boeing are hoping to launch the West’s first all-new flying juggernauts in 25 years as e-commerce gets a boost from the global pandemic.

Airbus, without a buyer after launching a freighter version of its A350 jet in the summer, was knocking on the door of one the industry’s go-to patrons for new plane launches, Steven Udvar-Hazy’s Air Lease Corp, industry sources said.

A deal could also feature passenger jets, they said, adding the widely awaited freighter launch had to be finalized.

Visitors attend the Edge display during the Dubai Airshow in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (Reuters)
Visitors attend the Edge display during the Dubai Airshow in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (Reuters)

Air Lease is expected to be among early customers for a long-haul A350 freighter alongside an unspecified cargo firm, industry publication The Air Current reported.

Airbus declined comment at the opening of the Dubai Airshow on Sunday, the first day of the Middle East industry event. Air Lease did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An A350 freighter would go up against a proposed cargo version of Boeing’s 777X passenger series, a twin-engined successor to the soon-to-be-halted 747.

Boeing has not launched the cargo variant, but analysts say it is widely expected to do soon as it negotiates with potential buyers including major cargo player Qatar Airways.

Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker, who is locked in a dispute with Airbus over the quality of A350 passenger planes, said in June Qatar was in discussions over a possible 777X freighter.

Visitors walk past the Edge display during the Dubai Airshow in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (Reuters)
Visitors walk past the Edge display during the Dubai Airshow in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (Reuters)

Freighters have replaced jumbo passenger jets in typical dealmaking at the showcase event, as the industry looks to put on a brave face after losing two years of passenger growth to the global drop in travel caused by COVID-19.

In contrast to the passenger market, air freight is booming as consumers increasingly shop online while global supply chain constraints have limited the amount of cargo that can be moved.

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