Dubai Airshow 2021 comes to an end. Let’s have a look at the top deals at the aviation summit

Airbus kicked off the 2021 Dubai Air Show with a bang, landing massive deals from day one.

Held at Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central from November 14 to 18, Dubai Airshow 2021, the biggest-ever, attracted 1,200 exhibitors with 371 new companies. As many as 148 countries took part in the event, and 13 of them for the first time, fortifying the event’s status as a global event. The show also featured more than 160 of the world’s most advanced aircraft on the ground and in the air.

Dubai Airshow 2021 (Image Courtesy – Airways Magazine)

The French aerospace manufacturer had amassed 408 announced orders and commitments by the end of the show’s fourth day, while its American counterpart Boeing trailed with 101. Airbus and Boeing are the world’s two largest aerospace companies by revenue. 

The order numbers so far from the first major air show since the Covid-19 pandemic began are a positive sign for aviation and travel, which suffered devastating losses for much of the last 18 months. “We view orders for new aircraft as positive for the recovery of the commercial aerospace industry,” Morgan Stanley said.

(Image Courtesy – Khaleej Times)

Airbus scored its first big win on day one of the air show, with an order for 255 of its narrow-body A321neo and A321XLR jets from American private equity firm Indigo Partners, which buys planes for low-cost carriers like Frontier, Wizz Air, Jetsmart and Volaris.

The Indigo Partners deal includes:

  • Wizz Air – 102 aircraft (75x A321neo + 27x A321XLR)
  • Frontier – 91 aircraft (A321neo)
  • Volaris – 39 aircraft (A321neo)
  • JetSMART – 23 aircraft (21x A321neo + 2x A321XLR)
(Image Courtesy – Airbus)

The deal from Indigo Partners, the first major aircraft order since the pandemic began,  was a “very positive signal that we [are starting] to be on the front foot again,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.

It then notched a letter of intent from Air Lease Corp, set to be finalized in the coming months, for 111 aircraft across the Airbus product range.

ALC’s order includes:

  • 25x Airbus A220-300
  • 55x Airbus A321neo
  • 20x Airbus A321XLR
  • 4x Airbus A330neo
  • 7x Airbus A350F
ALC became the first customer to order the A350 freighter. (Image Courtesy – Airbus)

Kuwaiti airline Jazeera Airways committed to 28 Airbus A321neos, and Nigeria’s Ibom Air committed to its first Airbus purchase with an order for 10 A220s.

The popularity of narrow-body jets at this year’s air show came as a surprise to some analysts, who say the Middle East event is more known for orders of wide-body planes used for longer-haul flights. 

On the military side, Airbus also sold two A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTT), an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft, to the UAE Air Force and Air Defense, and clinched a new export order for two A400M airlifters from the Indonesian Ministry of Defense.

Boeing was not far behind

Boeing saw some relief with a large order of 72 of its 737 Max from the new Indian airline Akasa Air. It also had success with freighters, with orders for 11 of its 737-800BCF cargo planes from aircraft leasing company Icelease, nine converted 767-300BCF freighters from DHL, and orders for two of its long-range 777F freighters from Emirates SkyCargo. 

Akasa Air’s CEO Vinay Dbue with Boeing’s CEO Stan Deal (Image Courtesy – Boeing)

The American aerospace giant also received four orders of passenger planes and freighters from Air Tanzania and three of its widebody 777-300 passenger jets from UAE-based aviation services provider Sky One FZE.

We expect more orders before the year-end, says Boeing executive vice president

Cargo planes and converted freighters are a hot sub-sector of the aviation industry as e-commerce booms and air shipment grows. Cargo is the only air traffic segment that has gone above 2019 levels. For Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates Airline alone, cargo operations in its latest half-year earnings were robust, seeing a 39% increase and bringing the business to 90% of the volume it had pre-pandemic. 

The company plans to add three conversion lines — facilities that convert aircraft to freighters — for its 737-800BCF across North America and Europe. 

Boeing 777X at display. (Image Courtesy – Sam Chui)

Boeing has long dominated the air cargo market, but it’s French rival Airbus could threaten that with its A350F, a cargo version of its widebody passenger A350-1000, ordered for the first time in Dubai this week. Emirates president says the airline is making a profit — despite 80 aircraft still on the ground.

Boeing’s much-anticipated 777FX — the freighter version of its long-range widebody 777X passenger jet — did not launch at the Dubai show. Boeing has also been facing criticism from Emirates President Tim Clark over delivery delays and technical problems with its 777X, which Emirates has ordered but whose delivery has been pushed back to 2023.   

(Image Courtesy – Emirates Airlines – Twitter)

The iconic American manufacturer hasn’t been viewed as having a winning performance at a Dubai Air Show since 2017 when the company clinched a major sale of 40 787-10 jets to Emirates Airline at a value of $15.1 billion on the show’s first day alone.

Ahead of the 2019 Dubai Air Show, Boeing’s sales were badly hit following two catastrophic crashes of its popular 737 Max jet in less than five months. Its fleet of roughly 400 737 Max jets around the world was grounded for nearly two years.

Other sales

Abu Dhabi-based defence conglomerate Edge, whose exhibitor stand was among the biggest at the site, signed a slew of deals during the event. The latest included an agreement with weapons maker Israel Aerospace Industries to jointly develop advanced unmanned surface vessels for military and commercial use.

Russia displayed a prototype of its new fifth-generation warplane, the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate, for the first time outside the country.

Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate (Image Courtesy – The National Interest)

Russia State-owned Rostec revealed a perfume to commemorate the Checkmate’s international debut in a YouTube video.

“Checkmate is a fifth-generation fragrance for masters of the game,” the video says, revealing the Checkmate aircraft against the outline of a black knight chess piece. A full-size bottle appears through the rotating metal engine blades, a gift box unfolds into a black-and-white chessboard to highlight the slogan ‘Turn the Chessboard’.

Russia presented the Checkmate as a cost-efficient fighter jet with flight speeds of Mach 1.8 and a range of 2,800 to 2,900 kilometres.

Private jet sales expected to take off as manufacturers see huge interests at Dubai Airshow 2021.

$235 billion worth of new executive jet deliveries expected before 2030 according to a Honeywell Global Business Aviation report and Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub also reported a 336% increase in the movement of private and business aircraft compared to 2020.


One of the most popular private jets on the market is on display at Dubai Airshow — the Bombardier Global 7500. Priced at $75 million and considered the industry flagship.