Boeing Co.'s planned 777X long-haul airliner grabbed the bulk of orders today at the first day of the Dubai Airshow, with at least 225 planes on the books in an eye-popping display of the spending power and aggressive expansion efforts of Gulf carriers. In total, Boeing says that it netted at least 367 orders in deals believed to exceed $130 billion at the Middle East's premier aviation fair. Boeing CEO James McNerney Jr. called it part of the "largest commercial launch in aviation history" for a planned aircraft: the bigger and more fuel-efficient model of the company's popular 777 wide-body.
European rival Airbus opened the five-day airshow by announcing a $23 billion order for 50 A380s—its main competition for the 777X—by Dubai-based Emirates. This year's airshow appears on track to surpass the record $155 billion in deals in the 2007 event before the global economic downturn. Boeing received orders for 150 777X planes from Emirates, 50 from Qatar Airways and 25 from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways; it also inked deals with Etihad for 30 of its 787-10 Dreamliners and one cargo plane, and with budget carrier flydubai for 111 of its single-aisle 737 models. Boeing is still finalizing plans for the 777X—aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade—but it has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and to be 20% more fuel efficient than the current 777.