Inside some of Europe’s legacy carriers the good mood is back. After all, won’t all the recent difficulties the big three Middle East carriers have run into directly lead to the end of their growth and therefore many of their rivals’ problems? And conversely, should the big two aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing not be really worried because their dominating widebody customers may fall by the way-side?

It is easy to see why one might think the times of aggressive expansion are over. There would be many reasons: Low oil prices driving down demand in the region’s economies, the temporary laptop ban, the diplomatic spat between Qatar and its neighbors, the anti-Gulf lobbying campaigns in the U.S. and Europe, Etihad’s decision to pull the plug at Alitalia and Air Berlin, Emirates first-time decision to defer deliveries of some incoming Airbus A380s, low yields, low load factors in not just a few markets, massive losses in the case of Etihad Airways and massively reduced profits at Emirates.

“I don’t see it,” says Daniel Roeska, airline analyst at Bernstein Research. “The growth peak of 2014-2016 may be behind us, but there is still as much additional capacity coming in over the next several years as is flying today.”  And while John Strickland, an airline consultant, says whether 2017 may turn out to be a “pivotal year of change” for the big three, he still considers the logic of the hubs’ position and network to be intact.

Clearly, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have entered a new stage in their development. For some years it seemed like all three developed in parallel. Led by Emirates with its first-mover advantage, the airlines grew networks as fast as they could, and ordered multiple-billions-dollars worth of aircraft as their home countries tried to build airport infrastructure to keep pace with the rapidly growing requirements.

Emirates is now not only by far the most important customer of the Airbus A380: The airline launched the Boeing 777X program along with Etihad, Qatar Airways (and Lufthansa). In terms of long-haul network development, Qatar and Etihad largely followed the path that had been defined by Emirates years earlier leading to sometimes explosive capacity growth in many markets that all three started to serve. Qatar and Etihad accompanied that build-up with the growth of their narrowbody fleets, a segment so far untouched by Emirates. The underlying ideas and the business drivers were similar – using the airlines as tools to enable general economic and trade growth in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Their order books are impressive. Emirates has firm orders in place for 44 additional A380s, 15 Boeing 777-300ERs and 150 777Xs. Etihad is awaiting deliveries of 40 A350-900s, 22 A350-1000s, 54 more 787s, 25 777Xs and one 777F. Qatar Airways is awaiting 12 777-300ERs, 3 777Fs, 60 777Xs, and 30 787-9s, plus 30 A320neos, 16 A321neos, 24 A350-900s, 37 A350-1000s and two A380s.

But over the past year or so, the three have discovered that each carrier has its own issues to deal with: Etihad essentially halted its partnership strategy and is still in the process of redefining what its future plan will be. Qatar Airways cannot really have a clear vision for the long term because management is busy dealing with the ongoing diplomatic crisis and the widespread airspace closures for Qatar-registered aircraft in the region. And even Emirates is going through a period of some consolidation, having started the new process of closer integration with FlyDubai.

All the factors lead most observers to the conclusion that this year’s Dubai Airshow will only see a limited amount of aircraft orders, making it vastly different from earlier events used as stages to display power, optimism and the ambition to develop global networks at the expense of other carriers.