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BYLINE: Peter Conway
Just how long can the Arabian Gulf carriers maintain their rapid growth? The carriers seem to think it will last a lot longer, if their recent aircraft orders are any guide.
Yet the sheer scale of the ambition of the Gulf carriers is starting to cause alarm among their more established competitors. With the global economy showing signs of a downturn, there are growing worries the new aircraft could flood the market with new capacity, sparking a familiar spiral of cutthroat competition and falling yields in both the passenger and cargo markets.
Recent aircraft orders in the Middle East have certainly been of an eye-popping size.
Emirates, which already has a record $30 billion aircraft orders, enough to double its current fleet to more than 200 aircraft, announced another round of orders as large again at the Dubai Air Show in November. The $34.9 billion in passenger aircraft deals - the biggest order in history - included 120 A350s, 11 more A380s and 12 more 777-300 extended-range planes, and bring the carrier''s total outstanding order book to 246 aircraft, all of them widebodies.
That means Emirates will not only be the world''s largest A380 operator - it has 58 of the aircraft on order in total - but also the world''s biggest user of 777s; it has 57 total orders.
The orders mark a telling contrast with the most recent aircraft orders by established carriers.
In September, British Airways, which has 238 aircraft, 139 of them widebodies, ordered 12 A380s with seven options and 24 787s with 19 options as part of the …