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Checkout Emirates Watch Video

Review the key moments in our airline’s history and how we grew from modest beginnings to become a global aviation player recognized for our industry-leading products and services.

In 1984, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, then UAE Minister of Defence and a member of Dubai’s progressive royal family, 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.

In March 1985, Maurice Flanagan was tasked with the ambitious mission to launch an airline in 5 months with $10 million seed funding. He was told that the airline had to “look good, be good, and make money”. There would be no subsidies or aeropolitical protection under Dubai’s open skies policy.

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

On 3 July 1987, A6-EKA flew from Toulouse to Dubai as Emirates took delivery of its first owned aircraft, an Airbus A310-304.

First destinations

In its first 5 years of operations, Emirates grew its network to 14 destinations

1985– Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Karachi, 1986– Amman, Colombo, Cairo, Dhaka, 1987– Male, Frankfurt, Istanbul, 1988– Damascus, 1989– Jeddah, Kuwait

Emirates leads the way for inflight entertainment, becoming the first airline to install video systems in all seats, in every cabin class throughout its fleet.

In 1992, Dubai International airport completed a major refurbishment, and Emirates moved into a new $2 million departure terminal.

Emirates’ order for 7 Boeing 777s with 7 options signalled its ambitions was a vote of confidence for the industry hard hit by the first Gulf War.

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

Emirates becomes the first airline to equip its Airbus fleet with an inflight fax facility for customers to stay in touch while in the air.

Emirates Group takes a 43% stake in Air Lanka (later renamed SriLankan), and signs a 10-year management contract.

Emirates remains the largest international airline as the industry recovers from the COVID‑19 pandemic, carrying 15.8 million passengers in 2020

Q Additional information

Emirates was founded as an airline in 1985. It now flies to 157 destinations in 83 countries across six continents, providing air services that enable trade and travel to its home base in Dubai and beyond.
Emirates also connects millions of people on the ground each year through its other operations including Emirates Holidays, its destination marketing arm, and tour operator Arabian Adventures. Seamless trade connections are supported through Emirates SkyCargo, its cargo division.
A multinational and multicultural employer with over 160 nationalities working together, Emirates is committed to connecting people around the globe, and helping them to discover, enjoy and share new experiences together. This commitment is reflected in its wide portfolio of international sports and cultural sponsorships.

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