GGK Nair
GGK Nair Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: GGK Nair, a well-known aviation professional and long-time Indian expat in Dubai, has died here aged 84, his family told Gulf News.

Nair, who lived in the UAE for 59 years, was a member of the founding team of Emirates airline and the only Indian on the airline’s executive board during his tenure, the family said.

He passed away after a brief admission to a public hospital late on Saturday, according to the family.

Nair's youngest son Nanda Nair, a banking professional here, said his father’s funeral was held at the New Sonapur Crematorium in Jebel Ali on Monday. Nair’s two elder sons and wife live in Canada.

In a statement to Gulf News, Gary Chapman, president Group Services and dnata, Emirates Group, said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing away of our former colleague, GGK Nair.”

Chapman remembered Nair as “a dedicated and highly knowledgeable aviation professional,” and said “it was always a pleasure to work with GGK.”

“He was a wonderful father figure, kind and gentle and well-respected across the organisation. He made a significant contribution to the success of The Emirates Group and dnata. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends during this difficult time,” he added.

One of the earliest expats

Originally named Gopalapillai Gopala Krishnan Nair, Nair finished his schooling at Model School and St. Joseph’s School in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala.

“He was a brilliant student,” said Nair’s nephew Gopikrishnan. S, a business development manager in Dubai.

“He finished tenth grade with double promotion at the age of 13. He did his BSc graduation at 17 years. He had worked at Indian Railways in late 50s,” said Gopikrishnan.

One of the earliest Indians to migrate to the then Trucial States, Nair first set foot on the shores of Sharjah on December 26, 1961.

His son and nephew recollected an anecdote that Nair used to share: “Soon after his arrival, he saw an empty packet of cigarette named Lucky Strike on the beach and he took it as a good sign. It was indeed a good sign of his great future in this country,” said Nanda Nair.

Journey with dnata, Emirates

In 1964, GGK Nair joined dnata as accounts manager. He worked with the company which later founded the Emirates Airline for 39 years.

“It used to be a big celebration when he used to visit Kerala in the 80’s and many people used to approach him seeking jobs in the UAE. He had helped many from our place and family, including myself to come over here with good jobs,” said Gopikrishnan.


The family shared several photos of Nair with top officials of Emirates and world leaders like Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton and Prince Charles.

“He knew many big people and he was close to several top officials and community members here. But, he always loved to keep a low profile,” said Nanda Nair.

Though he was an aviation person, they said Nair was fond of cars and had around 12 of them. He also kept an old Mercedes-Benz car with the fancy number plate ‘Dubai 364.’

“His first driving license was issued on February 16, 1969. It was signed by the then Ruler of Dubai late His Highness Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum,” said Gopikrishnan.

The duo said Nair retired as the Emirates Group Company Secretary in 2013.