Britain: Manufacturers eye Arab airlines at international show

Farnborough, 14 July (AKI) – Aircraft manufacturers at the world’s largest air show are setting their sights on Arab airlines for orders as they face a slump in demand sparked by record energy prices.

Qatar Airways has announced it will hold a joint news conference with Boeing rival Airbus on Tuesday, promoting speculation it will announce a major order.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has indicated it may order between 50-100 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus (photo) in a record deal reportedly worth more than 20 billion dollars.

Etihad last year announced several direct flights per week between Abu Dhabi and the Italian business capital, Milan.

But analysts say jet manufacturers attending the Farnborough air show may struggle to get even half the record 600 news orders made last year.

The show is taking place at Farnborough outside London on Monday through Friday. Almost 1,500 exhibitors form 35 countries and over 300,000 people are expected to attend this year’s show, which alternates between London and Paris.

Soaring energy costs have eroded airline profits and two dozen carriers have ceased operations this year, including many budget airlines. Oil prices have doubled in the past year to above 140 dollars a barrel.

Airlines have also been hit by an even more spectacular rise in the price of metals used in modern aerospace production, such as heat-resistant rhenium.

The air show comes close to the anniversary of a credit crisis which has skewed the business plans of new airlines and led to order cancellations and deferrals.

The International Air Transport Association is forecasting industrywide losses of 2.3 billion dollars this year.

Major manufacturers will be competing in Farnborough for the lucrative medium-range jet market.

Global defence firms are bracing for slower spending growth, and analysts say lucrative US defence spending may be peaking. US contractors are reportedly looking for international growth to offset this possibility.

However, analysts say heightened tension between the West and Iran after several days of missile tests in the Persian Gulf last week could spur billions of dollars of news business for defence contractors.

On display at Farnborough will be an ‘eye-in-the-sky’ converted business jet that could be the key to any Israeli air strike on Iran.

Speculation that Israel may bomb Iranian nuclear installations has mounted since a major Israeli display of air power last month.


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