Since 1985: The Story of Emirates Airlines Started with Flights to Karachi, Mumbai

06 Mar 2022
Since 1985: The Story of Emirates Airlines Started with Flights to Karachi, Mumbai

UAE will celebrate its 50th National Day this year. As the country heads towards this significant milestone, it is worthwhile to trace Dubai’s journey from a sleepy fishing village to the global aviation hub it has become today.

Any story about Dubai is incomplete without a mention of Emirates airline – one of the region’s largest airlines.

In 1984, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, then UAE Minister of Defence asked Sir Maurice Flanagan, then managing director of dnata, to look into starting an airline. By December that year, a comprehensive business plan was ready, and the name “Emirates” was chosen for the new airline.

A year later, Flanagan was tasked with the ambitious mission to launch an airline in 5 months with $10 million seed funding. There would be no subsidies or aero political protection under Dubai’s open skies policy.

First flights to Karachi, Mumbai

On October 25, 1985, Emirates operated its first flights from Dubai to Karachi and Mumbai, using a Boeing 737 and an Airbus 300 B4 wet-leased from Pakistan International Airlines.

In its first five years of operations, Emirates grew its network to 14 destinations – these included Mumbai, Delhi, Karachi, Amman, Colombo, Cairo, Dhaka, Male, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Damascus, Jeddah, and Kuwait. The 1990s saw air travel becoming more popular than ever before. Fares dropped as the competition and the number of customers increased.

That same year, Dubai International airport completed a major refurbishment, and Emirates moved into a new $2 million departure terminal.

Strengths to strengths

The US recession in 1990–1991 combined with the Gulf War wiped out air travel demand and inflicted losses of $10 billion on the industry. While this hit Gulf airlines particularly hard, Emirates bounced back swiftly and even placed an order for seven Boeing 777s with 7 options.

The carrier’s financial strength became even clearer when it made its first acquisition in the form of a 43 per cent stake in Air Lanka (later renamed SriLankan).

Along with Emirates grew Dubai’s position as a global hub, which saw passenger arrivals hit the 11 million mark in 1999. In that same year, Emirates carried 4.7 million passengers on its fleet of 32 aircraft.

A global brand

It was only in the 2000s that Emirates became the global brand that it is today. Indeed, turn on any television set around the world and there is a presence of Emirates, either in advertising, on referees at the Rugby World Cup, on Formula One, or on the shirts of football players — a presence that shows the marketing prowess and reach of the airline.

Source: Gulf News