Emirates turns 32: A brief history of UAE's favourite airline

The inaugural Emirates flight EK600 after landing in Karachi on October 25, 1985
The inaugural Emirates flight EK600 after landing in Karachi on October 25, 1985

Dubai - Over 1,500 Emirates planes fly out of Dubai every week

By Compiled by Sana Altaf

Published: Wed 25 Oct 2017, 2:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Feb 2023, 10:00 AM

October 25, 1985, marks a special day in the history of UAE. On this day, 32 years ago, the first Emirates flight took off. Flight number EK 600 flew with UAE royal dignitaries on board from Dubai to Karachi at 11.45am. Two other planes also took flight to the Indian cities of Mumbai and Delhi.

Today, Emirates has a fleet of over 230 aircraft, flying millions of passengers to over 150 destinations in more than 80 countries.

Let's look at the timeline of the airline's successful history:


- dnata is established by the Dubai government with just five staff to provide ground handling services at the new Dubai International Airport.


- His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, opens the airport and implements innovative open-skies policy.


- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Maurice Flanagan, director and general manager of dnata, discuss launching an airline in Dubai. Flanagan was among a 10-man team which produces a business plan for the new airline - to be named either Dubai Airlines or Emirates airline.

- Sheikh Mohammed opts for Emirates and the decision is made to build the airline on top of dnata, which was already the sales agent for 25 airlines.


- Flanagan embarks on ambitious mission to launch an airline with $10 million in five months.

- Pakistan International Airlines agrees to wet-lease Emirates two aircraft.

- Deals are struck to fly into Karachi, New Delhi and Bombay.

- On October 25 Flight EK600 departs Dubai International for Karachi.


- Deals are struck to fly into London's Gatwick Airport, as well as Istanbul, Frankfurt and Male, the capital of the Maldives.

- The Airbus A310-304 is designed to Emirates specifications, giving the airline the opportunity to fully implement its commitment to offering a superior flying experience than its rival.


- Damascus is added to the Emirates route network, giving it a total 12 destinations in just 38 months of business.


- As the airline celebrates its sixth anniversary, 25,000 passengers a week are being flown to 23 destinations.


- Emirates becomes the first airline to install video systems in all seats in all classes throughout its fleet.

- Emirates convinces the French government to allow it to fly into Paris.

- $2 million terminal exclusive to Emirates is opened at Dubai International.

- Emirates becomes first airline to order a $20 million Airbus full-flight simulator.


- Emirates becomes the first airline to introduce telecommunications on an Airbus - in all three classes.


- Emirates is the first airline to equip an Airbus fleet with an on-flight fax facility


- As the airline celebrates its 10th birthday, it has a fleet flying to 34 locations in the Middle East, Far East and Europe


- Airline takes delivery of its first Boeing 777-200 and becomes the first airline to show live footage of take-off and landing. Its maiden flight to London is followed by Emirates' inaugural flight to Melbourne.

- Emirates becomes title sponsor of the world's richest horse racing event - the Dubai World Cup.


- Emirates makes a $2 billion order for 16 Airbus A330-200s.

- Airline defies high fuel prices to again post record profits as passenger figures top three million and the cargo haul hits 150,000 tonnes.

- Emirates takes delivery of six Boeing 777-200s, giving it new long-haul capabilities


- Emirates is voted Best Airline in the World at prestigious OAG Awards.

- The $540 million Terminal 2 is opened at Dubai International


- Emirates enters the hotel property market with the opening of the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.

- The first of 17 new generation Airbus A330-200s arrive in Dubai

- Emirates Group's workforce totals 11,000.

- Passenger arrivals at Dubai International hit the 11 million mark.


- Emirates becomes the first airline to sign up for the Airbus A380 when it orders seven, with an option on five more, at the Farnborough Air Show


- Emirates SkyCargo Centre - with a capacity to handle 400,000 tonnes a year - opens.

- Emirates signs £24 million deal to sponsor English Premiership football club Chelsea for four years.


- Four million passengers vote in the Skytrax internet poll and Emirates is again named Airline of the Year.

- Global passenger levels drop by four per cent but Emirates figures rise 18.3 per cent to 6.8 million.

- Cargo across the world plunges nine per cent but Emirates enjoys an increase of 19.5 per cent to 400,000 tonnes.

- Group announces $275 million investment in new hangar complex at the Emirates Engineering Centre.


- Emirates makes its first flight to North America - a non-stop 14-hour flight to New York's JFK Airport. This marked the first non-stop passenger service from the Middle East to North America.


- Emirates Group workforce totals 25,000 people from 124 countries around the world, making it Dubai's biggest employer.

- Passenger traffic continues to rise with 12.5 million recorded in the year.

- Emirates orders 42 Boeing 777s in a deal worth $9.7 billion, the largest Boeing 777 order in history.


- The Emirates- dedicated Terminal 3 opens in October and within a month 500,000 passengers had flown out the terminal

- Emirates SkyCargo begins operations out of Dubai Cargo Village's new Mega Terminal, with a capacity to handle 1.2 million tonnes annually.

- The first Emirates flight to Los Angeles touches down, while flights are also launched to San Francisco and Cape Town.

- Emirates becomes the first international carrier to introduce an in-flight mobile phone service.

- Emirates takes delivery of three A380s and aviation history is made when its first A380 touches down in New York.

- The 10,000th cabin crew member joins the Emirates team.

- New Emirates sporting facility 7he Sevens hosts record crowds at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Seven


- Emirates celebrates its 25th anniversary marking a quarter of a century of success and remarkable growth

- New routes to Tokyo, Amsterdam, Prague, Al Medinah al Munawarah, Madrid and Dakar launch, while cargo-only operations to Almaty, Bagram and Campinas commence.

- The Emirates Group posts an increased profit of Dh 4.2 billion (US$1.1bn) for the financial year ending 31 March 2010.

- Emirates orders 32 additional A380s at the Berlin Air Show along with GP7200 engines by Engine Alliance. It also orders 30 additional B777-300ERs at the Farnborough Air Show.

- Emirates is part of celebrations in South Africa an Official Partner of the FIFA World Cup.

- Emirates SkyCargo operates the first paperless flight between Mauritius and Dubai with all shipments carried processed electronically.

- Emirates SkyCargo sets a new record by operating the longest ever non-stop freighter flight of 17.5 hours between Sydney and New York.

- dnata ground handling welcomes the first commercial flight to land at the new Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International.

- Emirates Skywards, with more than five million members, marks its 10th anniversary with a new look and an enhanced programme.


- Emirates places the largest single order in Boeing's history - 50 777-300 ER aircraft, worth $18 billion in list price. The order also included 20 777-300 ER options valued at US$ 8 billion.

- Emirates joins Boeing in Seattle to celebrate the unveiling of its 1,000th 777. The landmark aircraft becomes the 102nd to join Emirates' Boeing 777 fleet.


- Double daily A380 services to Paris Charles de Gaulle and New York JFK are introduced.

- London Heathrow becomes an all A380 route, following the launch of the fifth daily A380 service.


- Emirates is named the world's "Most Valuable Airline Brand".

- Emirates becomes the first airline to offer a scheduled A380 service at London Gatwick.


- Emirates launches daily flight to Bologna, Orlando, Mashhad, Multan, Bamako and Bali and resumes flights to Erbil.

- Emirates signs a historic US$9.2 billion order with Rolls-Royce for 200 A380 engines.

- Emirates sees brand value grow for 4th consecutive year to US$6.6 billion

- The airline also retains its top position as the most valuable airline brand in the world.

- Emirates celebrates a milestone in its employee history, with its cabin crew team now crossing 20,000 staff.


- Emirates is named the World's Best Airline and receives 12th consecutive award for best In-flight Entertainment at Skytrax World Airline Awards 2016.

- In social media, Emirates becomes the world's first airline with one million Instagram followers and launches the world's first interactive amenity kit in economy class.

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