The Dubai-based Emirates Airlines on Sunday operated the world's largest passenger airplane — the double-decker A380 — to the new Islamabad International Airport (IIA).
It was the first time an A380, nicknamed Superjumbo, landed at a Pakistani airport.
The one-off A380 flight EK-2524 departed from Dubai at 8:45am and arrived at the IIA at 12:20pm.
The special flight was welcomed with a customary water cannon salute at the airport, as its two captains — UAE national Capt Abbas Shaban and Pakistan-origin First Officer Qadir Moin — waved the flags of Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates upon landing.
After a welcoming ceremony, government officials, VIPs, media and officials from the travel industry were given a guided tour of the A380 by Emirates cabin crew.
"The landing demonstrated the airport’s readiness to accommodate the A380, the world’s largest commercial passenger jet," the airlines said in a press release.
Emirates currently has 104 wide-body double-deck airplanes A380s in service and 58 pending delivery, more than any airline globally, a press release by the airlines said, adding that it also recently announced a $16 billion deal for 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft.
“We are proud to have operated this special A380 flight to Islamabad, the first time ever that our flagship aircraft has landed in Pakistan. The Emirates A380 is fundamental to our overall strategy, and bringing this popular aircraft to Islamabad represents a significant milestone in our operations to Pakistan, a country we flew our first ever flight to in 1985. We are very keen to now launch a scheduled A380 service to Pakistan and will continue to work with authorities to make these plans a reality,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla.
A VIP delegation travelled to the capital on the special flight — which returned to Dubai in the afternoon — led by Emirates' Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations Centre Sheikh Majid Al Mualla and Adil Al Ghaith, the airlines' Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, GMEI (Gulf, Middle East and Iran). They were joined by Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al Zaabi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan and Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE.
The airlines had invited two Pakistani members of its first-ever team as special guests on the flight: Captain Fazle Ghani, Emirates' first chief pilot and team lead for inaugural operations and Captain Ejazul Haq, one of the pilots who operated the first-ever Emirates flights from Dubai 33 years ago.
The Emirates A380 aircraft on this one-off service was set in a two-class configuration offering seats in economy class and fully flatbed seats in business class as well as Emirates’ on-board lounge.
Emirates and Pakistan have a shared history tracing back to over 30 years when the airlines’ flight landed in Karachi on October 25, 1985.
The Islamabad International Airport, which was made operational on May 3, has upgraded facilities to accommodate wide-body double-deck jet airliners with two special parking bays and latest jet bridges.