Emirates' expanding A380 fleet is generating interest from airports across the world. A further order for 32 A380s, announced during the Berlin Air Show, has prompted a flurry of enquiries. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: Here's the incredible journey of Dubai-based Emirates airline.

We start from the year it leased two small aircraft in 1985 to serve a few destinations in the Sub-continent, to what is has become today — the world's biggest international airline, carrying millions in style to more than 160 destinations.


Emirates Group announces half-year performance for 2019-20, with Dh1.2 billion profit, and a 7.9% increase in passengers carried to Dubai.

Group revenue was Dh53.3 billion ($14.5 billion) for the first six months of 2019-20, down 2% from Dh54.4 billion ($ 14.8 billion) during the same period last year. This slight revenue decline was down to planned capacity reductions during the 45-day Southern Runway closure at Dubai International airport (DXB), and unfavourable currency movements in Europe, Australia, South Africa, India, and Pakistan.

dnata revenue was up 5% to Dh7.4 billion ($ 2.0 billion). During the six months to June 2019, the airline served 51.9 million, up 67 per cent due to major business expansion.

51.9 million

number of meals served by Emirates in the first six months of 2019


Emirates Skywards, the airline's loyalty programme, has reached 20 million members. In an average month, the programme welcomed 220,000 new members across the globe.

Emirates axes chauffeur service on Skywards-upgraded tickets
Emirates Skywards is the airline's loyalty programme, with 20 million members.

It also has strategic partnerships with FlyDubai, Easyjet and Qantas, and 13 other airlines offering members access to one of the world’s largest networks of global travel destinations. In addition, members can also earn and redeem Skywards Miles at 1.8 million properties worldwide through its 23 partner hotel groups, making for a seamless travel journey.


Emirates, already the world’s largest international airline, concludes another banner year. Since January 2017, Emirates has carried over 59 million passengers, served over 63 million meals on its flights departing Dubai, and moved over 35 million pieces of baggage in Dubai to its network of 156 destinations.

Emirates registered over 3,600 passenger flights on average per week, or over 191,000 flights in 2017, travelling more than 886 million kilometres around the globe, which is equivalent to over 16,000 trips to Mars.


Emirates scaled up its fleet in 2016 with the addition of 36 new aircraft, consisting of 20 A380s, 16 Boeing 777-300ERs, while retiring 29 older aircraft. The airline concluded the year with 255 aircraft in service, with an average age of 5.0 years, significantly below the industry average of over 11 years.

Emirates aircraft parked at Dubai Airport. Emirates, with a fleet of 171 planes, signed an $18 billion deal with Boeing for its 777 aircraft at November’s Dubai Airshow. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News archive

Keeping its fleet young not only minimises Emirates’ overall carbon footprint, but it also enables the airline to put the latest products and services onboard its aircraft.

In April, Emirates placed an order for two additional A380 aircraft, taking its total A380 order book to 142, cementing its position as the world’s largest operator of the popular double-decker aircraft.


  • Emirates named 'Most Valuable Airline Brand'
  • Emirates Group revenue reaches Dh87.8 billion ($ 23.9 billion), highest in its 28-year history, up 13% on 2012-13.
  • By this time, Emirates is already serving 142 cities in 80 countries from its hub in Dubai.
  • Emirates carried 44.5 million passengers, 5.1 million more than in 2012-13, and 2.3 million tonnes of airfreight, up 8%. It operates the world’s largest fleets of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
  • dnata, meanwhile, has becomeone of the largest combined air services providers in the world and the largest travel management services company in the UAE.
  • dnata handled 1.6 million tonnes of cargo, handled 288,000 aircraft, a 9% increase over 2012-13, and served over 41 million meals at 62 airports.


  • Emirates tops up A380 orderbook of 58 by placing 32 more to 90.
  • Emirates announces 247 per cent jump in net profits to Dh4.2 billion for 1009-2010 financial year
  • The airline places order for 30 Boeing 777s, worth $9.1 billion at the Farnborough Airshow in July.

Emirates tops up A380 orderbook of 58 by placing 32 more to 90.


  • Emirates begins flying the Airbus A380 on the Sydney, Auckland, Bangkok, Toronto and Seoul routes.
  • Emirates becomes the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 777 with the delivery of the 78th plane.


  • Emirates’ dedicated Terminal 3 opens in October and within a month 500,000 passengers pass through it.
  • The company moves into the new multimillion dollar Emirates Group headquarters.
Chinese visitors at Dubai International Airport Terminal 3.
Chinese visitors at Dubai International Airport Terminal 3. Image Credit: Supplied


  • Emirates signs contracts for 120 Airbus A350s, 11 A380s and 12 Boeing 777-330ERs, worth an estimated $34.9 billion (Dh128.16 billion), at the Dubai Air Show.
  • The addition of Sao Paulo to the network represents the first non-stop flight between the Middle East and South America.
To celebrate HH Sheikh Zayed’s centennial, the 100th Emirates A380 ‘Year of Zayed’ aircraft landed in Sao Paulo. courtesy emirates


Emirates signs an agreement for 10 Boeing 747-8F freighters in a deal worth $3.3 billion.


  • Emirates Group workforce totals 25,000 people from 124 countries, making it Dubai’s biggest employer.
  • Emirates orders 42 Boeing 777s in a deal worth $9.7 billion, the largest Boeing 777 order in history.
An Emirates A-380 prepares for take off to Dubai Image Credit: Courtesy : Twitter


Emirates’ Boeing 777
Emirates’ Boeing 777 is welcomed with a water cannon salute after touchdown at Porto Airport. Image Credit: Emirates

Emirates orders four Boeing 777-300ERs, with nine options, in a $2.96 billion deal.

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.


  • CAE and Emirates join forces to open the $100 million Emirates-CAE flight simulator.
  • Emirates places $19.1 billion worth of orders for 71 aircraft.
  • Emirates expands service on Dubai-Sydney route with the first A340-500 joining the fleet
Emirates aircraft at Dubai International Airport. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News


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

An Emirates Boeing 777 freighter from Hong Kong touches down at Dubai World Central. Logistics and air freight companies are constructing their own buildings in the complex. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

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


  • Emirates signs £24 million deal to sponsor English Premiership football club Chelsea for four years.
  • In a survey of 2.7 million airline passengers by Skytrax Research, Emirates is voted Airline of the Year.
  • Emirates SkyCargo Centre opened, with enough capacity to handle 400,000 tonnes a year

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

In a survey of 2.7 million airline passengers by Skytrax Research, Emirates is voted Airline of the Year.



  • The Shaikh Rashid Terminal opens, increasing the capacity at Dubai International Airport to 22 million passengers a year.
  • Frequent flyer loyalty programme Emirates Skywards is launched.
  • Dubai Government announces an investment of $500 to $600 million in the new Terminal 3 with a capacity of 20 million passengers a year.


  • The first of 17 new-generation Airbus A330-200s arrive in Dubai.
  • Emirates Group’s workforce totals 11,000.
  • Passenger traffic through Dubai International Airport hits 11 million.


Dubai International Airport
In 1998, Terminal 2 was built. The second stand, Concourse 1 opened in April 2000. Image Credit: File
  • Emirates is voted Best Airline in the World at the prestigious OAG Awards.
  • The $540 million Terminal 2 is opened at Dubai International.


  • 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 cargo hits 150,000 tonnes.

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


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


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


Emirates is the first airline to equip an Airbus fleet with an inflight fax facility.


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


  • Emirates becomes the first airline to install video systems in all seats in all classes throughout its fleet.
  • A $2 million terminal exclusive to Emirates is opened at Dubai International.
  • Emirates becomes first airline to order a $20 million Airbus full-flight simulator.


On January 17, Emirates grounds its fleet for several hours as the battle to liberate Kuwait begins. Operations resume and Emirates maintains 90 per cent of its normal services during the first month of the conflict.

EK B727
Emirates Boeing 727-200 at Dubai International Airport (1991).


Emirates bucks the industry trend and continues to expand despite the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and adds Manchester to its schedule.


Flights are added to Singapore, Manila and Bangkok.

Dubai Airport 1980s and 1990s
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, longer-range aircraft — such as the Boeing 747, A340 and B777 series aircraft were introduced, which had the range to fly between Europe and South East Asia non-stop. Image Credit: File


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


  • Deals are struck to fly to London’s Gatwick Airport as well as Istanbul, Frankfurt and Male, the capital of the Maldives.
  • On July 3, A6-EKA flies from Toulouse to Dubai as Emirates takes delivery of its first bought aircraft.
  • 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 rivals.


  • The network grows with traffic rights acquired into Amman, Colombo, Cairo and Dhaka.
  • Investment in infrastructure and expansion costs see Emirates posting losses for what would be the only time in its history.
Inaugural flight EK600 took off for Karachi on October 25, 1985 from Dubai International Airport. Over the last four decades, the UAE has gained global prominence in the aviation industry with Emirates airline in the cockpit Image Credit: Supplied


  • Maurice Flanagan embarks on ambitious mission to launch an airline with $10 million in five months.
  • Shaikh Ahmad and future president Tim Clark join Flanagan’s team.
  • Pakistan International Airlines agrees to wet-lease Emirates two aircraft.
  • Deals are struck to fly to Karachi, New Delhi and Mumbai.
  • A PR disaster is thwarted by recruiting 80 Emirates staff to travel incognito to disguise the dismal sales of tickets on the maiden flight.
  • On October 25 flight EK600 departs Dubai International for Karachi.
The first Emirates flight to Karachi prepares to leave Dubai. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive


  • His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Flanagan discuss launching an airline in Dubai.
  • Emirates becomes the first airline to install video systems in all seats in all classes throughout its fleet.


Maurice Flanagan moves to Dubai to become director and general manager of Dnata.

Maurice Flanagan, Group Vice-Chairman, Emirates Image Credit: Supplied
190906 dubai airport 2
Dubai International airport in 1971. From 4-5 flights a week and just 40,000 passengers a year, the airport today handles 34,000 flights a month and 88.8 million passengers a year. Image Credit: Supplied


Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum opens the airport and implements innovative open-skies policy.

The first airport came in Dubai in 1961, see this old picture of Dubai airport Image Credit: SUPPLIED


Dnata is established by the Dubai Government with just five staff to provide ground handling services at the new Dubai International Airport.