How Pakistan International Airlines Helped Start Emirates

Emirates is one of the world’s leading airlines… but did you know that when they were founded that they got help from another airline in the world? PIA, Pakistan International Airlines, offered crucial support to the airline when it first began and has since been a close partner ever since.

PIA involvement in Emirates was critical for the airline to become what it is today. Photo: Getty Images

What are the details?

Emirates was founded way back in 1984 as a response to Gulf Air cutting back on routes to Dubai. Gulf Air became concerned that it was just sending through passengers from regional areas to Dubai, only for them to board a competitor long-haul flight to Europe and Asia.

Thus the government of Dubai decided to make their own airline in order to ensure connectivity to the region. But, despite having the funding to do so, the airline lacked critical expertise and, obviously, aircraft.

Maurice Flanagan was brought onboard with the ambitious mission to launch an airline for Dubai in just five months and only with $10 million seed funding. According to Emirates today, he was told back then to make the airlinelook good, be good, and make money”.

But without staff or even aircraft, how could he make a new airline so quickly?

In stepped Pakistan International Airlines.

What did Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) bring to Emirates?

The new venture approached PIA with its idea of a new airline and asked for as much support as they could lend. With the budget of $10 million, Emirates would be able to rent two aircraft, receive administrative support and engineering assistance in running the airline

The two aircraft that the new airline Emirates rented were:

  • A Boeing 737–300
  • An Airbus A300B4-200

It would use these first aircraft to open a route to Karachi, Pakistan. The two planes would be operated by PIA but with Emirates livery. As Emirates didn’t have any crew or staff yet, they would be flown by PIA pilots and with their crew on board. With the additional training provided by PIA, new crew members would slowly be recruited by Emirates.

Emirates would use these aircraft to fly to Mumbai and Delhi in its first year. From here they would also fly to Amman, Colombo, Cairo, Dhaka, Male, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Damascus, Jeddah, Kuwait over the next five years.

Emirates would also receive additional support from the government of Dubai in the form of two leased Boeing 727s, which you can read about here.

An Emirates Boeing 727. Photo: Perry Hoppe via Wikipedia

But Emirates would not have its own airline fleet until 1987 when they got their first owned aircraft, an Airbus A310. They would use this plane to open up a route to London by the end of the year.

Emirates has had fantastic success and become one of the biggest power-players in the aviation industry, but we can’t forget their humble beginnings and PIA gave them a step up right at the start.

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