Emirates Airlines has backed out of a deal it signed seven years ago to buy 70 Airbus A350s, a major blow to the European plane-maker that could prove a windfall for Chicago-based Boeing.

The canceled order for 50 A350-900s and 20 of the larger A350-1000s, to be delivered in 2019, had been worth $16 billion at the time the deal was inked in 2007.

Emirates didn't elaborate on the reason for the cancellation, other than to say the contract had "lapsed." However, the Dubai-based airline has expressed dismay in the past over A350 development and production delays. The about-face also hurts U.K.-based Rolls-Royce, which was to have supplied the aircraft engines.

The New York Times reports:

"The news comes just months before the new jet, the A350-XWB, is due to enter service, prompting some analysts to wonder whether the decision by Emirates could presage a slowdown in aircraft orders from Persian Gulf carriers."Those airlines have been among the most voracious buyers in recent years of wide-body planes from both Airbus and Boeing."

According to Reuters:

"The A350 is Europe's first jetliner built mainly from advanced new materials and was designed to compete with two types of aircraft from Boeing — the lightweight mid-sized 787 Dreamliner and the larger but older 777 mini-jumbo."Emirates was among the first buyers for the A350 when it placed the order for 50 A350-900s and 20 A350-1000s in 2007."

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