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Emirates Airline Gold The impartial guide to all things Emirates airline.  EK Source The

Emirates was formed on October 25 1985 when the Government of Dubai provided $10 Million in initial start up capital for the carrier via the Investment Corporation of Dubai. The airline remains Government owned and has been self-financing since the initial investment.

Initially the airline operated just two aircraft, a Boeing 737-300 and an Airbus A300, both of which were leased from Pakistan International Airlines. Later that year a Boeing 727-200 was leased from the Dubai Air Wing to provide additional capacity.

Emirates cancelled its commitment for the Airbus A340-600 in October 2006 when delivery dates slipped to the point that it would not be available any earlier than extra Boeing 777-300ERs which the airline regarded as a superior aircraft. Emirates said that the A340-600 came in far heavier than in the original specification.

As new aircraft were delivered new routes to Banglaore, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram whilst Kuala Lumpur received a direct service having previously been flown via Dhaka.

Another huge order placed at the 2007 Dubai Air Show called for 120 Airbus A350XWBs, eleven Airbus A380s and a further twelve Boeing 777-300ERs.

The first of ten Boeing 777-200LRs arrived in 2007 and these were used to inaugurate service from Dubai - Sao Paolo, marking the airline’s first foray into South America. Other new destinations commencing this year were Ahmedabad, Houston, Newcastle, Toronto and Venice. Beijing services went double daily and Johannesburg went triple daily.

Emirates became the second airline in the world to operate the Airbus A380 in 2008 when A6-EDA operated a special flight from Dubai - New York JFK. Emirates grabbed the headlines with its A380 cabin which featured two shower units for First Class passengers along with an upgraded First Class Suite and a bar area for First and Business Class passengers. The shower units were not without their problems however and early aircraft required modifications.

In October 2008 all Emirates operations at Dubai moved to the new Terminal Three. This allowed for more efficient connections for the airlines huge transfer passenger operation. The Sao Paolo service went daily this year and new routes were added to Cape Town, Guangzhou and Kozhikode. Meanwhile Milan and Rome were separated so that each city received its own daily flight.

Emirates officially became the world’s largest Boeing 777 operator when it took delivery of its seventy-eighth aircraft in 2009. It is also the only airline in the world to operate all six Boeing 777 variants; 777-200, 777-200ER, 777-200LR, 777-200 Freighter, 777-300 and 777-300ER. New deliveries allowed new services to commence to Durban, Los Angeles and San Francisco whilst frequencies were increased on routes to Athens, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, Melbourne, Moscow and Nice.  

On 20 March 2009 Airbus A340-500 A6-ERG departing Melbourne as EK407 to Dubai experienced a tail strike on departure, struck the lights at the end of the runway and took out antenna. The aircraft made it into the air and began to dump fuel over Port Phillip Bay but returned to Melbourne to make an emergency landing when smoke began to appear in the cabin. Investigations revealed that an incorrect take-off weight had been used in calculations resulting in the aircraft being at too low a speed when it rotated. Both pilots resigned shortly after the incident.

On June 19 2009 the aircraft departed Melbourne for an unpressurised flight at a maximum of 10,000 feet routing Melbourne - Perth - Singapore - Dubai - Cairo - Toulouse for repair by Airbus. Repairs took five months with the aircraft ferrying Toulouse - Dubai on 24 November 2009 and returning to passenger service on 1 December

An additional thirty 777-300ERs were ordered at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show. Services to Amsterdam, Dakar, Madrid and Tokyo Narita were launched this year with services increases on routes to Melbourne and Jakarta. Two Airbus A330-200s left the fleet this year finding a new home with Virgin Australia.

The expansion continued at the 2011 Dubai Air Show with a firm order placed for fifty more Boeing 777-300ERs with options for another twenty. Copenhagen, Geneva and St Peterburg flights were commenced this year.

The first of an eventual twenty nine Airbus A330-200s arrived in 1999 and these enabled the phasing out of the earlier A300 and A310 models.  

The dawning of the new Millennium saw Emirates step up its expansion with an order for twenty five Boeing 777-300s, eight Airbus A340-600s, three Airbus A330-200s and twenty-two of the double deck A3XXs which were later re-named A380, being ordered at the 2001 Dubai Air Show.

New destinations added in 2002 included Casablanca,  Khartoum, Mauritius, Osaka, Perth and Zurich.

At the 2003 Paris Air Show Emirates announced what at that time was the largest order in airline history when it placed orders for twenty three A380s, two Airbus A340-500s, eight Airbus A340-600s, and twenty six Boeing 777-300ERs via leasing companies ILFC and GECAS. Brisbane, Auckland, Lagos, Shanghai and Moscow joined the network this year.

Starting in 2003 Emirates launched its ICE (Information Communication Entertainment) in flight entertainment system providing audio and video on demand.  

This system was first featured on the first of ten new Airbus A340-500s. These aircraft permitted the airline to launch new  non-stop services from Dubai to Sydney and New York JFK in 2004, when Glasgow, Vienna and Accra were also added.

As well as the ICE system the Airbus A340-500 inaugurated Emirates First Class Suites whereby passengers had a flat bed seat in a private cabin with sliding doors.

Despite these orders expansion was still quicker than the manufacturers could cope with and so a deal was struck with Boeing for the lease of eight Airbus A340-300s that Boeing had taken in part exchange as part of an order for Boeing 777s from Singapore Airlines.

However less than two months after entering service with Emirates Airbus A340-300 A6-ERN was unable to get airborne from Johannesburg until it was around 500 feet beyond the end of the runway and sustained damage to the undercarriage when this struck landing lights. The aircraft was able to return to Johannesburg and stopped safely on the runway despite the brakes failing. The South African Civil Aviation Authority concluded that an erroneous take off technique was employed by the flying pilot, who was only crewing an A340-300 for the second time and was pilot flying for the first time.

The next mega-order came at the 2005 Dubai Air Show when twenty four Boeing 777-300Ers, ten Boeing 777-200ERs and eight Boeing 777-200 freighters for Emirates Sky Cargo were ordered. As delivery of the freighters was some way off the airline took three Airbus A310F aircraft from Airbus this year. New destinations in 2005 were Geneva, Hamburg, Seoul and the Seychelles whilst Birmingham services went to double daily.

Freighters were on the agenda at the 2006 Farnborough Air Show when Emirates signed for ten Boeing 747-8s. As these would not be delivered for several years the airline entered into a ten year agreement in 2007 to wet lease two Boeing 747-400ERFs from Guggenheim Aviation Partners and a further one from TNT.

Emirates first route was from Dubai to Karachi, followed by Mumbai and Delhi and 260,000 passengers were carried in the first year. In 1986 further flights were added to Amman, Cairo, Colombo and Dhaka.

Although the Boeing 737 returned to Pakistan International Airlines in 1986 further narrowbody capacity was added in 1987 when a second Boeing 727 was purchased from the Dubai Government.

The A300 was temporarily replaced by a second example from Kuwait Airlines but reinforcements arrived in 1987 in the form of two new build Airbus A310s. The airline’s first route to Europe commenced on 6 July 1987 when it commenced non stop flights to London Gatwick and a Dubai - Istanbul - Frankfurt operation. Male in the Maldives also joined the network in 1987.

The airline began to push towards Asia in 1989 with services launched to Bangkok, Manila and Singapore.

In it’s first ten years the airline expanded the fleet to six Airbus A300s and eight Airbus A310s and built the network up to cover 37 destinations in 30 countries. At this time it was the sixth largest airline in the Middle East.

In 1992 Emirates launched personal TVs at all seats with First Class passengers being provided with individual video players. All aircraft in the fleet were so equipped by 1993.


The airline’s love affair with the Boeing 777 commenced in 1996 when the first of three “A” market 777-200s arrived. These were followed shortly afterwards by six Boeing 777-200ERs. Emirates were the first airline in the world to introduce ten abreast seating in Economy on the 777 using a 3-4-3 configuration instead of the more normal nine abreast 3-3-3 or 2-5-2 configurations used by other carriers. The 777s incorporated a new innovation with forward and downward facing cameras providing video footage which could be viewed via the in flight entertainment system. The arrival of the 777 allowed Emirates to continue its Singapore service onwards to Melbourne commencing in 1996.

In 1998 Emirates made its first and only foray into making investments in other airlines taking a 43.6% stake in Sri Lankan Airlines for $70 Million. This deal included a 10 year contract for Emirates to manage Sri Lankan. This shareholding was sold back to the Sri Lankan Government in 2010 for around $150 Million.

1998 also saw Emirates Sky Cargo launched. Although the company had always provided a cargo service using capacity within its passenger aircraft this was now expanded with an Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance lease agreed with Atlas Air initially for a single Boeing 747-200 freighter.