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Airbus scores whopping £16.7bn Emirates deal

70 A350s and 11 A380s

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Airbus yesterday used Dubai’s annual air show to announce a whopping £16.7bn deal with Emirates to supply 70 A350s and 11 A380s - described by the Times as "the largest-ever single-aircraft order".

The deal is a serious blow to Boeing, which inked a paltry $6.1bn deal with Qatar Airways for 30 787 Dreamliners and five 777 cargo aircraft. Emirates' president Tim Clark said: "There was a recognition that we have to buy sooner rather than later. Boeing was not in a position to offer us the 787-10, which we wanted. Airbus had come up with a very good aeroplane at a very good price that hit the spot."

The 787 Dreamliner programme has been hit by serious delays which have knocked back delivery of the first example to All-Nippon Airways to November 2008. Airbus's A380 was itself somewhat late in taking to the skies following "wiring problems", but the fact that it can now deliver aircraft leads analysts to believe that sales will "pull ahead of its American rival by the end of the year".

Emirates, meanwhile, is well on the way to fulfilling its dream of becoming the world's "largest long-haul carrier". Before the latest deal, it had already requested 55 A380s - the biggest single order ever made for the type - and Dubai is in the process of building a new international airport to serve as the hub of the airline's ambitions.

The company's chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, said: “The A350 XWB and A380 will play an important role in supporting Emirates’ and Dubai’s growth plans. As the leading airline for the 21st century, it made sense for Emirates to choose the A350 XWB - an aircraft designed with 21st-century technologies.”

Whether Emirates and its massive fleet of Airbus kit do come to dominate the skies remains to be seen. Dubai-based aerospace analyst Robert Ziegler offered: “They are building the highest-capacity network in the world. No other airline has ever tried anything like that before. Everybody is asking the question: what on earth are they going to do with so many planes? And more importantly: will it work?”

Airbus currently has 165 A380s on order, while Boeing says customers are eagerly awaiting delivery of 710 787s - although it won't take to the skies until "end of first quarter 2008", according to the company. ®

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