DUBAI: Dubai will host a major air exhibition amid relentless competition by the world's jet makers for a slice of a booming regional market that has defied surging fuel prices and terror threats.
Authorities boasted on Wednesday that the ninth edition of the Dubai Air Show, which was last held in 2003, will be 25 per cent bigger this year, with nearly 10,000 square metres more exhibition space.
The four-day event will open on Sunday at a sprawling expo centre next to the airport bringing together 726 exhibitors from 46 countries, organisers say.
It is also attracting more players and officials from the defence and military aviation industries than previous years.
"This ... justifies our claim that it is the fastest-growing airshow in the fastest-growing aviation region," said Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, head of Dubai's civil aviation department and chairman of flagship carrier Emirates.
Nearly $7.5 billion in deals were inked at the last show, including $3bn in orders for Airbus jets by Qatar.
The already fierce competition between Europe's Airbus Industries and Boeing of the US is expected to be taken to another level this year given the area's growth prospects.
Dubai, Qatar and even Abu Dhabi have ambitions to become regional hubs linking Europe to Asia, Australia and Africa.
Global passenger traffic grew by 8.3pc in the first nine months of 2005, while the Middle East registered growth of 15.3pc, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The biggest passenger and freight growth over the next five years will be seen on the Middle East to Asia route, and Qatar will rank in the top five countries for international traffic, IATA said.
Airlines in the region have been unfazed by the near doubling of oil prices this year, which drove two US carriers into bankruptcy protection in September.
Emirates, owned by Dubai, posted net profit of $251m for the first six months of 2005, a gain of 7pc on a year earlier.