While Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – popularly known as the Middle East three or ME3 – battle for hub-to-hub supremacy, yet another clash of the giants is taking place on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Airbus and Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, are locked in an eternal struggle to offer better, more efficient, and more luxurious aircraft to the airlines.
But which one of them fares best? Which manufacturer’s aircraft are you likely to be in when flying with one of the ME3? And which one has been luckiest in terms of future orders? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The majority of Emirates’ current fleet is composed of variants of the Boeing 777 wide-body airliner. And while the company has released some of its Airbus A380 double-decker flagships from storage, the overall number is still comparatively low.
Emirates is also Boeing’s prime client for the upcoming 777X – the new generation of the legendary twinjet. A total of 115 are currently on order, out of 150 originally ordered in 2013. Due to endless delays, Emirates has cut its requirements and supplemented it with 787s and Airbus A350s. Nevertheless, the 777X is expected to enter service in 2023, which means that the Emirates fleet will be Boeing-dominated for years to come.
Please note that the infographic below is interactive – feel free to click or tap to switch between active, stored and ordered aircraft, as well as their models.
Etihad is known to have one of the most varied fleets in the Middle East. While much of its variety has dwindled in recent years due to financial cuts, some color still remains.
The bulk of the fleet consists of ultra-modern, ultra-efficient Boeing 787s, although Etihad also retains some of its old 777s as well as a sizable amount of narrow-body Airbuses from the A320 family. The small aircraft are set to be replaced with brand new A321neos though, and in the coming years the 777X will probably replace its older brethren. These changes are unlikely to significantly alter the Airbus-Boeing balance in Etihad’s fleet, though.
After retiring the Airbus A380s, Qatar has been betting heavily on the Boeing 787, praising its efficiency. The most numerous aircraft in its fleet is still the 777 though, and 60 of the upcoming 777X are also on order.
Nevertheless, with quite a lot of A320s and A350s (including scores of them in storage and on order), Qatar comes closest to the 50/50 Airbus-Boeing balance of the ME3 group. A320neo deliveries, as well as putting inactive A350s into action, could even turn the table, although the situation will most likely remain unchanged in the long run as the 777X is set to arrive in 2023.
The big picture
Back in the day, the central premise of Airbus was built on a medium-haul, wide-body concept. The A300 was a revolutionary plane in this regard but, with time, Airbus shifted its focus, and the narrow-body A320 became the company’s best-selling product.
Before the introduction of the A350 and A330neo the company hadn’t been emphasizing its wide-body airplanes as much, a weakness Boeing sought to exploit. So it’s no wonder that the American manufacturer dominates in the ME3. Since the demise of the large, extremely luxurious but somewhat inefficient A380, both the Boeing 777 and 787 have become the workhorses of Middle Eastern long-haul companies, and the A350 (as well as the A321neo to some extent) can offer only limited alternatives. Companies which had Airbus A330s have retired them too, as the aircraft were quite old, and if not for the delays with the 777X, Boeing’s share in these fleets would probably have been even higher.