If the 15th Dubai Airshow proved anything, it was both the resilience of the Middle East’s aviation sector and the biennial exhibition’s reputation as a key marketing forum.
The region’s commercial aviation prowess continued to soar, as a bigger-than-ever show, complete with increased exhibitor numbers and an order book of headline-grabbing numbers, had the industry talking across the globe. This was the right show in the right place and the timing could not have been better in cementing the show as the destination for aerospace.
Dubai Airshow - The Confidence Builder
Set against a backdrop of headwinds buffeting the world’s aviation industry, the Dubai Airshow proved a huge confidence boost for the sector. At its close, the show at the Al Maktoum International (DXB) site at Dubai South notched up a $113.8 billion declared on-site aircraft sales book, an impressive 305% increase on the $37.2 billion worth of orders placed two years prior.
The confidence boost took off on the first day when Dubai’s homegrown international airline, Emirates, signed a headline-grabbing deal for 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners worth $15.1 billion. Emirates stole the spotlight again with the unveiling of its completely revamped cabin interiors and next-generation broadband inflight connectivity for its Boeing 777 aircraft. The first-class cabin, inspired by Mercedes-Benz, was the showstopper with the world’s first floor-to-ceiling sliding doors delivering total privacy – effectively a hotel room in the sky.
With Emirates setting the pace, the orders and industry breakthroughs continued unabated. Emirates’ sister airline flydubai was up next and made history itself as it announced an order for 225 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft – the largest ever order from a Middle Eastern airline for a single-aisle aircraft.
More than just aircraft shopping
The show programme wasn’t just about deals however - it was about knowledge sharing and debate, with a spate of mini-conferences and specialised pavilions covering space travel, drones, cargo, training and airport solutions. This sector-specific, multi-discipline approach, launched in response to exhibitor and visitor feedback were, according to Dubai Airshow managing director Michele van Akelijen, designed “to ensure that the Dubai Airshow maintained its position at the forefront of the aerospace industry.”
She explained: “Each conference, whether it was one or two days, was carefully scheduled to allow attendees to maximise their experience of the Dubai Airshow; and most took place in dedicated areas within pavilions at the show.”
The extended programme helped boost attendee levels. Visitor figures for the biennial show were up 20% on 2015 to 79,380 – with 40% hailing from the Middle East and 30% from Europe. Some 252 delegations from over 60 countries toured the show.
Remaining relevant is something the Dubai Airshow is assured offor the foreseeable future, with Boeing proclaiming the Middle East as being “in the middle of massive potential” and Airbus forecasting the region needs 2,588 aircraft over the next 20 years to satisfy a passenger demand growing at 5.9% annually, according to IATA figures.
For US technology provider Honeywell, which sealed a 15-year component service solutions agreement with Emirates at the show, the Dubai Airshow is “one of the biggest, most important aviation events in the world.”
“For major Gulf carriers which have committed to developing their fleets and routes in the region, the event provides executives with the perfect opportunity to connect with fellow aerospace professionals, hear about the latest partnerships and product launches, and facilitate successful trade,” said Paul Page, Connectivity Sales Manager, Honeywell Aerospace.
“For us, attendance is a critical component of our regional efforts. It provides a chance to announce company updates, highlight new Connected Aircraft offerings and get a better overall understanding of how the market is changing and what competitive advantage we can offer.”
The final frontier in focus for 2019
Such is the show’s importance, that even with two years to go before the next edition, the exhibitor line-up is already taking shape and at a faster rate than ever. “In fact, exhibitors rebooking during the Dubai Airshow 2017 came to nearly four times as many as in 2015 - demonstrating the increasing commitment of exhibitors to returning,” explained van Akelijen.
It would seem both visitors and exhibitors can once again look forward in 2019 to the Dubai Airshow pointing the way to the future. The Royal Aeronautical Society’s Tim Robinson says an increased Chinese presence and a greater space focus are the likely contenders.
“This Dubai provided further proof of the rise of China as the next great aerospace and aviation power,” he said.
Looking to the future, Robinson said that space would be the show’s next frontier. “With the UAE Space Agency’s ambitious plans for a city on Mars, a Martian simulation facility and the creation of a UAE astronaut corps, space will become a bigger and bigger presence at future Dubai air shows.”
And as the region’s unrivalled ‘Destination for Aerospace’, those in the know are already looking forward to Dubai Airshow 2019 running at Dubai from November 17-21.