Emirates’ First-Ever Flight Took Off 35 Years Ago Today

Emirates is one of the best-known airlines in the skies today. The UAE’s flag carrier has become known for its luxurious onboard service. Its Dubai hub serves an extensive route network that spans all six of the world’s inhabited continents. However, it has not always been this way. 35 years ago today, the Emirates story began in a far more humble manner.

Emirates a380 getty images
Emirates was the second airline to launch the Airbus A380 commercially. It now operates the world’s largest fleet of this type. Photo: Getty Images

Humble beginnings

Emirates operated its first commercial flight on October 25th, 1985. On this date, flight number EK600 flew from the airline’s hub in Dubai to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. According to FlightRadar24.com, Emirates still operates this two-hour flight with the same flight number. Today, it utilizes aircraft from its large Boeing 777 fleet. In 1985, however, it did not have such a wealth of widebody aircraft (or aircraft in general, for that matter) to choose from.

An Emirates press release looking back on the airline’s commercial launch reports that, to begin with, it did not own its aircraft outright. The carrier commenced its operations using a pair of airliners wet-leased from Pakistan International Airlines. The aircraft in question, a widebody Airbus A300 and a narrowbody Boeing 737, arrived in Dubai on October 20th, five days before the launch.

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Emirates now uses Boeing 777 aircraft on what was its inaugural route from Dubai to Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: Getty Images

Early obstacles

While Emirates has since become hugely successful, its early days were not without the odd hiccup. Captain Fazle Ghani Mian, who was at the controls for the inaugural EK600 flight, recalls, for example, that:

“Some of the flight caps were oversized for some of our pilots and they looked quite funny with them on their heads. However, that was a minor detail. We pushed back and took off on time, and this signaled a great achievement for the airline in such a short period of time.”

Captain Mian also detailed an administrative hurdle in the aforementioned press release. While the airline’s first pilots were trained in Dubai, they actually “received their commercial licenses from the Civil Aviation Authority in Pakistan.”

Emirates today

The United Arab Emirates, as a country, has experienced incredible economic growth in recent decades. The same growth can be seen to have occurred in parallel in the case of the country’s flag carrier airline.

Emirates operates a considerable widebody fleet consisting of 152 Boeing 777 and 115 Airbus A380 aircraft, according to Planespotters.net. In August 2008, it became the second customer to commercially launch the latter of these, the iconic double-decker ‘superjumbo.’ The carrier also possesses an executive Airbus A319.

As Simple Flying reported yesterday, Emirates is the world’s largest operator of both of these types. However, it is, of course, important to consider that a lot of the airline’s aircraft have been parked indefinitely for some time as a result of the sharp drop in passenger demand caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The enormous growth of Emirates since 1985 has paralleled that of the UAE as a country. Photo: Getty Images

Looking to the future, it appears that Emirates only plans to carry on expanding. The airline has 50 Airbus A350 aircraft on order. It is also looking to expand its Boeing fleet, with extensive orders placed for both the American manufacturer’s 777X and 787-9 ‘Dreamliner’ variants. The humble beginnings of a wet leased pair of Airbus A300 and Boeing 737 aircraft certainly now seem a long time ago.

What are your experiences flying with Emirates? Let us know in the comments!