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Boeing draws with Airbus at Dubai Airshow

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DUBAI (AFP): Airbus and Boeing ended the Dubai Airshow head to head Wednesday after bagging major orders as the European producer widened the gap on its US rival by promoting eco-friendly, single-aisle jets.

The prestigious aviation show was kicked off with a record order by Emirates for 50 Boeing long-range 777-300ER jetliners, in an USD 18-billion deal that also confirmed the Dubai-based carrier as the largest operator of 777s.

And the American manufacturer topped off its single largest dollar-value order with the sale of two 777 freighters to Qatar Airways for USD 560 million.

Airbus meanwhile had to endure apparently tough last-minute talks with Qatar Airways for a large order anticipated since June.

The Gulf carrier's chief Akbar al-Baker cancelled a commercial announcement with the European company on Tuesday, and went instead to a joint news conference with Boeing, lashing out at Airbus by saying the manufacturer was "still learning how to make airplanes."

Few hours later, he turned up all smiles for a joint briefing with Airbus, announcing the long-awaited order which gave a large boost to the recently launched A320neo fuel-efficient jetliner, of which he ordered 50.

In addition, he doubled the carrier's order for the A380 superjumbo to 10. The total deal is valued at USD 6.4 billion at list price.

Airbus sold 50 other A320neos to the Kuwait-based leasing firm ALAFCO for USD 4.6 billion and 30 others to US-based lessor Aviation Capital Group for USD 2.7 billion.

Meanwhile, Florida-based carrier Spirit Airlines signed a preliminary agreement for 45 A320neos, in addition to 30 A320s with sharklet wingtips, in a deal valued at USD 6.7 billion.

Airbus said on Wednesday its sales of the recently launched fuel-efficient A320neo single-aisle jetliner have climbed to 1,268 units, including 130 ordered at Dubai Airshow this week.

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