DUBAI (Reuters) – Emirates unveiled a preliminary order worth $15 billion for 40 Boeing (BA.N) jets on Sunday, but kept Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA) waiting for a lifeline order for A380 superjumbos as the Dubai Airshow opened amid worries over tensions in the Middle East.
The largest Middle East carrier signed a draft deal for the largest version of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the 787-10, watched by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, credited for the launch of Emirates more than 30 years ago.
Airline chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said the carrier had chosen the latest version of Boeing’s mid-sized wide-body jet after comparing it with the Airbus A350.
Reuters earlier reported that Boeing was close to clinching a deal for 787-10s, upstaging expectations of an early Airbus deal.
The 40 jets are worth $12.5 billion at list prices, but Boeing said the value had risen to $15.1 billion after including other related equipment.
Boeing landed the order even as business confidence in the region has wobbled.
A rift emerged in the summer between Qatar and Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates.
That dispute has meant that Qatar Airways, who four years ago opened the Dubai Airshow with a blockbuster order announced jointly with Emirates, is not at the show this week.
Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, meanwhile detained dozens of top officials this month in an unprecedented, sweeping corruption crackdown.
But Sheikh Ahmed said the deal was proof that the region’s hub aviation model was working and highlighted the impact on jobs in the United States and elsewhere.
“This is a long-term commitment that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, not only at Boeing but throughout the aviation supply chain,” he said.
“Our announcement today also speaks to our confidence in the future of aviation in the UAE and the region.”
Airbus has been looking for a boost to the A380 superjumbo, which after a decade in service has seen sales decline in favor of smaller but equally efficient long-haul jetliners and had expected to close the deal with Emirates. Airbus envoys arrived in the press conference room apparently expecting a combined announcement, only to see Boeing take the honors.
No further announcements were scheduled by Emirates for Sunday, but could not be ruled out later in the week.
“Emirates are still talking to Airbus about it. There are no promises,” a Gulf source said.
A key to the deal could be the extent to which Airbus is prepared to buy back A380s due to leave the Emirates fleet.
“A few trade-ins will be involved,” a person familiar with the matter said.
Azerbaijan Airlines meanwhile announced an order for five Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner jets and two freighters.
And, distancing itself from rivals that have cut out first class seats, Emirates joined forces with Mercedes-Benz to launch new first-class suites inspired by luxury car interiors.
Additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Noah Browning; Editing by Catherine Evans