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Dubai speed machine defies slowdown

Tags: Airbus, Boeing
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The world's top planemakers issued bullish forecasts for sales from the Middle East on Monday, underlining the region's importance to the industry a day after Boeing (BA-N) unveiled a blockbuster deal to sell 777 jetliners to host airline Emirates.

The American company predicted that carriers in the Middle East will need 2,520 airplanes worth $450 billion by 2030, shortly after its European archrival Airbus said it saw demand for 1,920 aircraft worth $347 billion in the same period.

The forecasts and Emirates airline's $18 billion US order for 50 wide-body Boeing aircraft boosted the Middle East's largest industry event and pushed talk of global recession to the sidelines -- though analysts said getting aircraft financing was proving an increasing challenge.

Qatar Airways looked set to give its final verdict on a long-awaited Airbus order that sources said would include A380 superjumbos on Tuesday, but talks appeared to be continuing.

Sources familiar with the matter said Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways was ready to buy an extra 12 Boeings including 10 787 Dreamliners and two more 777s, but may not announce at the show.

The Gulf's big three are buying wide-body aircraft to serve Asia and the United States and redraw the world's transport and logistics map with the Gulf at the centre, thanks to its ability to reach most of the world's population in one long-haul hop.

And Kuwaiti lessor Alafco placed a $4.6 billion expanded order for 50 Airbus A320neo passenger jets, adding to the flood of orders.

The battle to redirect flows of people and cargo via the Gulf has provoked sharp exchanges with airlines in Europe. Emirates hit back at charges that it is flooding the market by pointing to European superjumbos flying into Dubai.

Emirates is the largest customer for the 525-seat Airbus A380 superjumbo with 90 of the world's largest airliner on order and there have been signs it might buy even more.

"The three big Gulf airlines are attacking other people's traffic. They are converting oil wealth into an aviation market position," said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of Virginia-based consultancy Teal Group.

Gulf airlines say they simply operate a better service, but geography is also on their side.

The Gulf region is reachable from nearly every major city on earth in a single flight given the range of modern jetliners, making it a natural global hub for passengers and cargo.

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