Timeline: Dubai’s Emirates completes 30 years - Gulf Business
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Timeline: Dubai’s Emirates completes 30 years

Timeline: Dubai’s Emirates completes 30 years

The fast growing Dubai airline began with a capital of $10m and two leased aircraft

One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Dubai-based Emirates launched its inaugural flight from Dubai exactly 30 years ago – on October 25, 1985 – to Karachi. Today, with a fleet of more than 230 aircraft, it flies to over 140 destinations in more than 80 countries.

Here’s a brief timeline of its journey so far.


Dubai’s current ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Maurice Flanagan discuss launching an airline in Dubai. A 10-member team puts together a business plan and Sheikh Mohammed opts for the name Emirates.


Flanagan and his team begin the task to launch an airline with $10m in five months. Current Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Emirates president Tim Clark join the founding team. Pakistan International Airlines wet-leases two aircraft to Emirates and Sheikh Mohammed gifts two Boeing 727-200s. Deals are struck to fly into Karachi, New Delhi and Bombay.

On October 25, Emirates’ inaugural flight, EK600, departs from Dubai International for Karachi.


In its first five years of operations Emirates secures 16 routes including Amman, Colombo, Cairo, Dhaka, London Gatwick, Singapore, Damascus, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Male, Manila, Bangkok and Manchester.

The airline receives its first self-bought aircraft, an Airbus A6-EKA, while the A310-304 is designed to Emirates’ specifications. In 1990, Sheikh Ahmed also signs up for three more Airbus A310-300s at the Asean Aerospace exhibition in Singapore.


In 1991, after its A300-600R fleet extends to nine aircraft, the carrier orders seven Boeing 777 aircraft with an option for seven more in a deal worth $64.5m.

Dubai International opens a $2m terminal exclusive to Emirates while the carrier becomes the first airline to order a $20m Airbus full-flight simulator.

On its 10th anniversary, Emirates reaches 34 locations with new destinations including London Heathrow, Paris, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kenya. The airline also opens the Emirates Flight Training Centre.


The airline takes delivery of its first Boeing 777-200 and also becomes title sponsor of the world’s richest horse racing event – the Dubai World Cup in 1996.

Emirates makes a $2b order for 16 Airbus A330-200s in 1997 and a year later takes a 43 per cent stake in Air Lanka.

In 2000, Emirates becomes the first airline to sign up for the Airbus A380, ordering seven, while it also buys six Boeing 777-300s.

Sheikh Ahmed also announces plans for a new $500m Terminal 3 at Dubai International, with a capacity for 20 million passengers a year.

Emirates’ frequent flyer programme, Skywards, is launched.


The Emirates SkyCargo Centre – with a capacity to handle 400,000 tonnes a year – opens in 2001, the same year that the airline signs a £24m deal to sponsor English Premiership football club Chelsea for four years. It also announces a $15bn order for 15 A380s, eight A340-600s, three A330s and 25 Boeing 777s.

Two years later, the airline again places a massive order for 71 aircraft at the Paris Air Show worth $19bn. In 2004, Emirates orders four Boeing 777-300ERs, with nine options, in a $2.96bn deal.

Emirates makes its first flight to North America – a non-stop 14-hour flight to New York’s JFK Airport – in 2004. It also signs a £100m deal with English Premiership side Arsenal, which includes naming rights to its new stadium for 15 years and shirt sponsorship for eight years.

By 2005, the Emirates Group’s workforce totals 25,000 people from 124 countries, making it Dubai’s biggest employer. The same year it places another record order for 42 Boeing 777s in a deal worth $9.7bn, the largest Boeing 777 order in history.


Emirates continues its buying spree signing an agreement for 10 Boeing 747-8F in a deal worth $3.3bn. It also signs a $195m partnership deal with FIFA.

At the 2007 Dubai Air Show, the airline signs contracts worth $34.9bn for 120 Airbus A350s, 11 A380s and 12 Boeing 777-330ERs.

The Emirates- dedicated Terminal 3 opens in October 2008 and within a month 500,000 passengers fly out of the terminal.

By 2009, Emirates becomes the world’s largest operator of Boeing 777s with the delivery of its 78th B777 aircraft.

A year later, the Emirates Group posts a profit of Dhs4.2bn for the year ended March 2010. The airline also orders 32 additional A380s at the Berlin Air Show and 30 B777-300ERs at the Farnborough Air Show.

2011- 2015

The airline places the largest single order in Boeing’s history in 2011 – 50 777-300 ER aircraft worth $18bn in list prices. The order also includes 20 777-300 ER options valued at $8bn.

Emirates partners Spanish football club Real Madrid and the US Open.

Two years later, Concourse A opens at Dubai International – the world’s first dedicated A380 facility. The same year Emirates begins its partnership with Qantas offering 98 weekly flights between Dubai and Australia.

Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the A380s, operates its superjumbo jet to 35 destinations across its network.


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