was both the first customer and is now by a large margin the biggest customer for
the next generation aircraft, the A380. Emirates has worked closely with Airbus in the design and development of the A380, as the airframe has moved from concept to the drawing board and on to the production line.
April 2000 saw Emirates’ first formal expression of interest in what was then the A3XX, an interest confirmed three months later at the Farnborough Air Show when it
became the first airline to sign a firm commitment and place a deposit for the aircraft.
Making a major long-term commitment, the award-winning carrier signed five passenger and two cargo variants of the A380, along with five further options, in a deal
worth USD $1.5 billion.
Emirates displayed further confidence in the aircraft at the end of 2001, at a time when most airlines were re-trenching after the terror attacks of September 11th in the
Reaffirming its ambition and commitment to maintain the airline’s growth, Emirates ordered a further 15 A380s at the Dubai Air Show in December 2001, part of a
multi-aircraft order worth an impressive USD $15 billion at list prices.
Emirates’ faith in innovative new technology was underlined further in February 2002 when it placed a USD $1.5billion order for 98 GP7000 engines (88 installed and 10
spare), produced by GE Aircraft Engines’ and Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Alliance, to power the 22 A380s ordered up to then. But this was still merely a stepping stone.
Scarcely over a year later, at the Paris Air Show in June 2003, Emirates more than doubled its commitment to the ‘superjumbo’ by ordering a further 23 of them, taking its
total A380 order book to a staggering 45 aircraft. The order for the additional A380s formed the bulk of an overall USD $19 billion order that astounded the airline world as
the largest in civil aviation history.
Finally, before the end of that same year, at the Dubai Air Show in December 2003, Emirates placed a second and last order, worth US $1.5 billion, for another 101
GE-P&W Engine Alliance GP7200 engines (92 installed and nine spare) for the 23 A380s ordered in Paris. With this second order and a total of almost 200 of the new,
yet-to-be-produced engines in the Emirates pipeline, the airline became its top buyer worldwide.
While some observers have arched their brows at the optimism of Emirates, the airline’s faith in the future of air transportation and its own potential is rooted in a
rock-solid record of consistent profitability for the past 17 years, and a doubling in size every four years on average.
Indeed, in Emirates’ meticulous long-term planning, A380 operations have already been charted from October 2006, when the airline is scheduled to take delivery of the
first of those aircraft.
In a first hint of what facilities might be found onboard, Emirates began finalising its commitments for the interior equipment at the Farnborough Air Show in 2004,
placing a groundbreaking USD $1 billion deal with Matsushita for its ex2 in-flight entertainment system for the Airbus A380. The carrier also committed USD $80m to the
purchase of First Class suites from B/E Aerospace for its A380 fleet.
The airline’s global hub at Dubai International Airport will be ready to receive the double-decker at its newly opened Terminal 3, which will have a total of 23 departure
gates and aerobridges specifically designed for the superjumbo.
The arrival of the first Emirates Airbus A380-800 in October 2006 will be a major milestone for the airline. It will signify its first step in the gradual build-up towards
becoming the world’s largest operator of the superjumbo.
The large passenger capacity of the A380 will enable Emirates to make up for slot constraints at many of the world’s major airports, while the aircraft’s ultra-long haul
range of around 15,000 kms will provide the airline with the ability to link the farthest-flung destinations on its global network with one single stop at its Dubai hub.
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