Emirates airline boosts Mideast market leader status

DUBAI, Nov 13, 2007 (AFP) – Dubai-owned Emirates airline, already the largest carrier in the Middle East, has reinforced its position as regional market leader with multi-billion-dollar orders at the Dubai air show.

Emirates’ buying spree is in step with the ambitious plans of the city-state to establish itself as a regional hub for travel, tourism and business.

“Dubai is investing billions to secure its future as a leading centre for business, tourism, and air transport on the global stage,” Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said at the start of the prestigious five-day show on Sunday.

“Emirates is investing in a fleet for the future, in order to support Dubai’s development,” he added, as he inked a deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for 70 A350 XWB jets and 11 additional A380 superjumbos.

The deal is valued at 20.2 billion dollars but could shoot up to 31.7 billion dollars if Dubai’s flagship carrier firms up an option for 50 more A350s.

Emirates was already the largest single customer of Airbus’s A380 and now has 58 units of the largest airliner on order. It expects to receive the first unit in August 2008.

The carrier also ordered 1