Last week marked the end of the biggest Dubai Airshow in 17 years, and the biggest of its kind in the region.

The edition featured 20+ country pavilions, 371 new exhibiting companies, 80+ startups along with a stunning aircraft display of over 160 commercial, military, and private jets including the latest Boeing 777X, but most importantly it was the coming together of the industry for the first time post the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a special correspondent to Kambr Media on the ground for the event, here’s my main takeaways from the 2021 Dubai Airshow.  

Travel is Back

While we are seeing a resurgence of COVID with multiple waves and variants across the world that could make agility in planning a norm, the industry is excited and ready to “live with COVID.”

Face-to-Face interactions with fellow colleagues and friends provided a thrust to all the business.

A common sight was the surprise on an attendee’s face spotting a past colleague she/he/they hadn’t seen for years. Moments like that defined the Airshow this year.  

Big Business: Aircraft Deals

Clear success of any airshow under all the excitement and media coverage is the business, and DAS21 did not disappoint. Deals worth Dhs.286Bn ($72bn) over the course of 5 days broke all previous records.

Airbus with 408 aircraft orders and Boeing with 98 showed confidence in the future growth of the industry.

This included new airlines like India’s Akasa with its $9bn order for the 737 Max aircraft, and airlines like Indigo, Wizz, American, Volaris & Frontier reaffirming their growth and restructure plans.  

Sustainability: SAF

With the backdrop of the recently concluded COP26, discussions around sustainability were at the forefront of both air cargo & passenger services.

"The current supply of SAF currently outstrips demand. For context, in 2018, 0.03% of fuel used by the industry was SAF."

In the panel “Sustainability in Air Cargo Logistics” moderated by EASA, leaders from Air France KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad and Volga-Dnepr Group discussed the fastest way to net neutral flying being sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Unfortunately, the current demand of SAF currently outstrips supply. For context, in 2018, 0.03% of fuel used by the industry was SAF. Etihad proved the benefits of SAF flights recently with its “Greenliner” flying from Abu Dhabi to London reducing emissions by 70% as compared to a similar flight in 2019.

Support towards the increase in supply of SAF is therefore critical to achieve the goals set by airlines and countries.


The “Tech Explore” stage at DAS21 held all AI-related discussions across the entire supply chain of the industry.

AI is not just discussed as a hype anymore but a true reality with airports like CVG presenting their use cases on how AI & IOT solutions have revolutionized airport operations.

AI discussions also focused on maintenance and operations and their implications on those areas of the business as compared to the usual focus on the passenger experience.

Predictive aircraft damage, digitization of maintenance, AI-enabled flight planning and passenger flow through airports are some use case examples.  

Special Shout Out to the 777X

Few things get the industry excited like the launch of a new aircraft. The Boeing 777X was at the Airshow at display on ground and in flight in all its glory.  

"The 777X is currently in flight testing and first delivery is expected in 2023."

The world’s biggest twin-aisle aircraft (with 300 firm pre-orders from airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates and Lufthansa) was the center of attraction at the show. The 777X is currently in flight testing and first delivery is expected in 2023.  

To summarize, this year’s DAS21 showcased to the world the resilience of the Air Transport Industry, and the excitement to get back to the skies.

While huge progress has been made in the virtual events format, the business done at DAS21 along with the noise it generated puts that model into perspective.  

The future will see many more hybrid formats, and face-to-face interactions for key decisions and networking seem to be the preferred choice for the industry.