As if on cue, Emirates Airline added a dose of intrigue to what was shaping up to be a very quiet Dubai Airshow Monday afternoon as Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum bestowed Airbus with an order for 50 A350-900s worth US$16 billion at list prices.

The contract with Airbus calls for deliveries to start in 2023 and continue into 2028, AINonline reported.

Although Sheikh Ahmed said the deal replaces the memorandum of understanding signed in February covering 30 A350s and 40 A330neos, he declined to elaborate on the disposition of the A330neo commitment.

He did concede, however, that Emirates might not have completely fulfilled its needs in the A350’s size category and confirmed he continues to discuss with Boeing a possible firm order for 787 Dreamliners, the report said.

Emirates signed an MOU covering 40 Boeing 787-10s during the 2017 Dubai Air Show.

“We are confident in the performance of the A350XWB and we believe this aircraft will be a good fit for our operation at Emirates,” said Sheikh Ahmed, who added that the airline plans to adopt new economy cabin configurations with the widebody.

“Together with our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us more operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range, and deployment. We will be able to take the aircraft for new markets not only in the region but also on long-haul missions up to 15 hours of flying time from Dubai.

The US$16 billion deal also reflects our confidence in the future of the UAE and its aviation sector, and it’s a strong confirmation of Dubai’s strategy to be a global hub.”

Sheikh Ahmed also addressed a question on the disposition of the Boeing 777Xs the airline has on order, confirming that he and executives from Boeing will continue to discuss possibilities at the show.

Emirates has placed an order for 150 of the widebodies, but the carrier’s CEO Tim Clark has expressed displeasure over the delay in the airplane’s planned entry into service availability. Emirates had planned to take delivery of the first airplane next June. Engine-related snags have delayed expected first delivery until early 2021.

In other Dubai Airshow news, Boeing and Embraer have launched their joint-venture (JV) to sell the newly rebadged C-390 Millennium airlifter to the international market.

The Boeing Embraer-Defense JV will formally become operational after the companies’ joint venture receives regulatory approvals and meets closing conditions. Embraer will have 51% ownership of Boeing Embraer-Defense, with Boeing holding the remaining 49%.

The announcement came on the same day that Embraer declared that C-390 Millennium is to be the new designation for what had been the KC-390, though it included the proviso that customers requesting the aerial tanker capability will still refer to their aircraft as the KC-390.

The Boeing Embraer-Defense JV on show at the 2019 Dubai Airshow. Credit: Jane’s.

With regard to the Boeing Embraer-Defense JV, it will build on the already close co-operation between the US and Brazilian companies on the KC-390 that dates back to 2012.

At that time, the plan was for Boeing to lead for KC-390 sales, sustainment and training opportunities in the US, UK and select Middle East markets, with Embraer manufacturing the aircraft and collaborating on sales, sustainment and training.

According to Gulfnews.com, Boeing is in talks to sell 737 MAX aircraft to Indian carrier SpiceJet Ltd., according to a person familiar with the matter, in what would be a Dubai Airshow coup for the narrow-body, which is currently grounded across the world.

The discussions are ongoing and the size of the order hasn’t been determined, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing private negotiations.

While the talks could still fall apart, a deal could be announced as soon as this week in Dubai, the person said.