Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Cleared for take-off: When the Airbus A380 made its Middle East debut

Fourteen years ago, Emirates wheeled out the plane at the Dubai Air Show

Visitors wait to tour the Emirates Airbus A380 when it was on display at the Dubai Air Show in 2005. AFP
Visitors wait to tour the Emirates Airbus A380 when it was on display at the Dubai Air Show in 2005. AFP

Emirates has historically been a big fan of the Airbus A380. It was the first airline to sign up for it, when it ordered seven, with an option on five more, at the Farnborough Airshow in 2000. On November 22, 2005, mere months after Airbus held its first test flight of the aircraft at its assembly plant in Toulouse, France, the plane made its Middle Eastern debut at the Dubai Airshow adorned in full Emirates livery.

In October 2007, the aircraft had its commercial debut, as Singapore Airlines ran Flight SQ380 from Singapore to Sydney. Emirates was the second airline to receive its order, and it put the planes to work in August 2008 between Dubai and New York.

To this day, the A380, nicknamed the super­jumbo, is the world’s largest passenger plane. It typically holds about 525 people per flight, but can carry up to 853, depending on seat configuration. Airlines across the globe have achieved new levels of luxury by utilising the vast space the two-storey aircraft affords, such as when Etihad introduced its three-room Residence in 2014, a unique flying suite that comes complete with butler service.

Having this plane as part of its portfolio always made a lot of sense for Emirates, as it offers hundreds of long-haul flights and simply needs the space. That’s how it’s ended up as the largest operator of the A380 and accounts for 123 of the 274 ever ordered.

But this year, Airbus announced it would end production of the double-decker in 2021, as it turns to creating more economical models (not many airlines can fill such a massive aircraft in the same way Emirates and Etihad can, after all). But passengers can expect to fly in comfort on these behemoths for years to come, before it’s truly consigned to history.

Updated: November 21, 2019 05:41 PM

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