Boeing continues to see solid demand for widebody aircraft in the Middle East despite Emirates’ delay in confirming a 2015 preliminary order for 40 Boeing 787s and plans to stretch 777X deliveries over a longer period.

“The Middle East is the largest market for the 777 worldwide,” Boeing Commercial Aircraft VP Randy Tinseth said Nov. 17 on opening day of the Dubai Airshow.

The share of widebody orders in the Middle East fleet is expected to reach 46% in terms of units and 72% in terms of value over the next 20 years, Tinseth said.

Boeing expects GDP in the region to grow by 3.1% on average over the next 20 years, leading to 5.1% in traffic growth. Boeing expects airlines in the region to order around 3,100 narrowbodies and widebodies in the same period.

Emirates has hinted that it wants to spread out deliveries of the 150 777Xs it has on firm order, and the Dubai-based airline has yet to firm its 787 order, although it has signed for 40 Airbus A330neos and 30 A350s as part of its cancellation of the A380 program.

Tinseth said Boeing continues to work on the new mid-market airplane (NMA) and is having discussions with customers, analysing the business case and working on the production system. “But now is not the time to be selling new aircraft,” Tinseth said, referring to the on-going grounding of the 737 MAX.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com