by Tim Hepher, Alexander Cornwell and Pesha Magid

DUBAI (Reuters) – Middle Eastern airlines are set to order tens of billions of dollars worth of long-haul planes as the Dubai Air Show opens on Monday.

Emirates should notably order 90 Boeing 777Xs, a major boost for the program for the largest twinjet in the world, expected in 2025 after five years of delay, according to industry sources.

With a potential value of nearly $40 billion at list price, depending on the sub-model chosen, this large-scale order would give a head start on emerging competition from Saudi Arabia and the ambitious plans of Turkish and Indian airlines, according to experts.

Emirates and Boeing declined to comment.

A parallel order from Emirates for the Airbus A350, a rival jet, appears to be on hold due to last-minute negotiations over the terms of an engine deal with Rolls-Royce, industry sources say. None of the companies agreed to comment.

Demand for the industry’s largest jets, which dominate the region’s airports, is surging after a prolonged slowdown followed by the COVID-19 crisis that crippled long-haul travel.

Industry officials estimate that airlines around the world are negotiating behind the scenes to buy some 700 to 800 new planes, including 200 to 300 of the world’s largest planes.

Turkish Airlines (THY) burst onto the trade show agenda on Saturday with government news agency Anadolu announcing talks to buy up to 355 Airbus jets.

Industry sources said the airline could announce at least part of the deal on Monday. It said it was in talks to purchase 600 planes in total, split between Airbus and Boeing.

A Middle East source described the prospect of a Turkish order as a “bold move” towards its Gulf rivals.

Emirates is the world’s largest user of wide-body aircraft, including Airbus A380 superjumbos and current-generation Boeing 777s. It has publicly stated that it plans to order more upgraded 777Xs, Airbus A350s and smaller Boeing 787s.

Dubai is holding the aerospace show against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which is driving up demand for weapons and closing airspace, making flights longer and more expensive for some airlines.

Analysts say the war in Gaza is also likely to boost demand for weapons, which has already increased over the past 18 months when the United States and its allies rearmed Ukraine against Russia. However, few major arms deals are expected at the show.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Alexander Cornwell, Pesha Magid; Nathan Vifflin, editing by Kate Entringer)

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