Arjun, his father, mother and brother enjoy the Burj Khalifa experience. The family also enjoyed a desert Safari, free stay and dining at the Atlantis hotel and lots of shopping. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: So what’s it like to be one in a billion — literally?

“It feels like a Royal,” said Arjun, a Grade 4 Indian student who created history in Dubai when he flew in from Orlando as Dubai Airports’ one billionth passenger on December 20.

“The flight was amazing. I was shocked when the airport CEO came up to the aircraft to welcome me and my family. We then got into a fancy limousine that took us to a VIP reception area. There was so much excitement and a huge crowd watched me as they blew confetti in my face,” he said.

Image Credit: Supplied

Ever since, it has been one long party for Arjun, his brother Varun, mum Ramya and dad Venkatesh Jayaraman in Dubai. It doesn’t matter that they are from the land of the Magical Kingdom. In their own words, nothing quite compares with their “once-in-a-lifetime” experience in Dubai, courtesy Dubai Airports.

Dubai Airports went to great lengths to find out what he liked. Accordingly, in the morning they sent him a cake in the shape of a football with the logo of his favourite New Orleans Saints team on it. In the evening, he was showered with gifts after we had done the exclusive desert safari. He was presented figures of his favourite sports and cartoon characters. He was super thrilled. Dubai Airports was also mindful that his brother, just three years older, doesn’t feel left out. He too got a bagful of gifts.

- Venkatesh Jayaraman, Arjun's father

“It’s been nothing short of magical,” Ramya told Gulf News over the phone on Monday, en route Dubai Mall, where the family was going to use gift vouchers worth Dh10,000. This, in addition to Dh3,500 that they would spend at Dubai Duty Free.

Venkatesh, who works with a software company said, “We have been given two suites at the Atlantis Hotel where we have been dining at some great restaurants and enjoying the Aquaventure water park. We’ve visited the Burj Khalifa, done a luxury desert safari with a sunset dinner and some memorable sightseeing.”

Image Credit: Supplied

If that were not enough, Arjun got to mark his milestone tenth birthday on Sunday with an array of additional surprises.

Venkatesh said, “Dubai Airports went to great lengths to find out what he liked. Accordingly, in the morning they sent him a cake in the shape of a football with the logo of his favourite New Orleans Saints team on it. In the evening, he was showered with gifts after we had done the exclusive desert safari. He was presented figures of his favourite sports and cartoon characters. He was super thrilled. Dubai Airports was also mindful that his brother, just three years older, doesn’t feel left out. He too got a bagful of gifts.”

As it turns out, the effort to ensure the family’s smooth landing into history was equally painstaking.

Venkatesh said, “I got notified about the billionth passenger last Sunday, four days before we were to fly out. I was told that our economy bookings were being upgraded to business class, but the other details remained a surprise. I didn’t tell the kids anything, so the whole experience was a surprise for them.”

Dubai Airports organised a grand reception for Arjun when he became its one billionth passenger on December 20. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai Airports, on its part, picked Arjun as the billionth passenger after its passenger traffic forecast system helped it narrow down the selection to a specific flight. Emirates was then approached to make a random selection.

But what of the trip’s bookings that Arjun’s family had made before hand? “Yes, we received a refund for the hotel, Burj Khalifa and desert safari bookings we had made earlier. The experiences were part of Dubai Airports’ itinerary, but on a much grander scale.”

As the family prepared to fly out to Chennai in India in the wee hours of Tuesday, they said they were overwhelmed by Dubai’s hospitality.

“It will be the most cherished chapter in the story of our lives,” noted Ramya.

How Dubai treated Arjun like a royal:

  • Business Class upgrade for the family of four
  • Grand reception at Dubai Airports
  • Tesla ride to hotel
  • Free stay and dining at the Atlantis
  • Free sight seeing tours
  • Special Burj Khalifa experience
  • Dubai Mall gift vouchers worth Dh10,000
  • Dubai Duty Free gift vouchers worth Dh3,500
  • Personalised birthday cake for Arjun