He's one in a billion: Dubai Airport's landmark passenger hails 'amazing' trip
Ten-year-old celebrates birthday during an all-expenses trip around the emirate
It has been a birthday to remember for a delighted boy who landed the honour of being named Dubai Airport's one billionth passenger.
Arjun Jayaraman, from Orlando, Florida, turned ten while enjoying an "amazing" no-expense-spared tour of the emirate – and he is still on cloud nine.
The airport was determined to mark the milestone in style – after achieving the feat on Thursday – with Arjun and his family treated to all that Dubai has to offer, from soaring skyscrapers and luxury shopping to a taste of tradition.
Highlights of the unforgettable four-day trip included visits to the Burj Khalifa, a personal shopping experience at Dubai Mall complete with Dh10,000 spending money and a desert safari.
Arjun and his family were put up at Atlantis, The Palm, one of the city's leading hotels, and given their own driver to chauffeur them around in a Tesla Model X.
“I had a great time,” said Arjun, who was travelling with his parents and his brother Varun, 13.
“The best part of the trip was going to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. I got a little scared I was up so high but it was still really cool.
“We got into parts that are not open to the public so that was even more cool.”
It was an extra special trip for Arjun as he celebrated his 10th birthday on Sunday with a desert safari.
“It was just amazing, I will never forget it.
“We had a party and I got loads of cool presents, including stuff from Disney.”
He also enjoyed a brush with nature after making friends with two locals who just happened to be camels.
“I rode two camels called Mercedes and Ferrari and it was incredible. We had dinner there too.
“I got to see falcons as well, you had to hold them on your arms but I wasn’t one bit scared.”
Arjun spoke to The National as he and his family were on their way to do some shopping at Dubai Mall.
“We are going to Dubai Mall with a Dh10,000 gift card which is awesome,”
He said that he knew exactly what he was hoping to pick up during his visit to the world-famous mall, a small memento of his visit to the Burj Khalifa.
“I really want to get a Lego Burj Khalifa set. I saw it in other places but we didn’t have time to buy it because we were so busy. I definitely want that though.”
No trip to Dubai would be complete without sampling the history and culture of the region, and that’s exactly what Arjun and his family experienced in Old Dubai, including a chance to step back in time at Dubai Museum.
Arjun was the guest of honour at a gala ceremony celebrating the airport's billionth passenger joy, where he rubbed shoulders with UAE royalty.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saaed, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and CEO and chairman of Emirates Group, was on hand to greet Arjun and his family at the airport on Thursday, as they arrived on Flight EK220 from Orlando.
“Everybody from Dubai Airport has been really nice to me and my family,” he said.
Arjun said he will have no hesitation in regaling his school friends about his trip to Dubai.
“I am going to share the story with everyone at school and tell them just how cool Dubai is,” he said.
“It was my first trip to Dubai but it definitely won’t be my last.”
While Arjun got the surprise of his life when he arrived at Dubai International Airport, it did not come as such a shock to his father who had been keeping it secret for days.
“They called me on Sunday to tell me Arjun had been named the one billionth passenger,” said Venkatesh Jayaraman.
“They had to because he was a minor. We kept it as a total surprise for the kids though.”
Mr Jayaraman said that his family had booked a family trip to India, with a stopover in Dubai, but that soon changed once he received the phone call from Dubai International Airport.
“It has been magical and my expectations have been totally blown away,” Mr Jayaraman said.
“Dubai Airport has been so good to us. They have taken care of everything and have been incredible. I really appreciate everything they have done for us.”
Updated: December 25, 2018 11:53 AM