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It all began with a start-up capital of just US$10 million and two leased aircraft in 1985.

The Emirates A-380 superjumbo.
The A-380 superjumbo.
Ready to fly - an image from Dubai Airport. - Emirates Photo.

Ready to fly – an image from Dubai Airport.  Emirates Photo.

Today, Dubai-based Emirates is one of the world’s largest airlines with one of the youngest fleets.  This week, Emirates unveiled plans that would make it THE largest airline in the world in seven years.

“By 2020, we will have more than 250 aircraft serving some 70 million passengers across six continents. It will make us the largest airline on the planet by international passenger traffic,” Emirates president Tim Clark told an international delegation appraising Dubai’s bid to host the World Expo 2020.

But Clark added that being the biggest airline in the world was not really the company’s end goal. The aim, he said, was to connect travellers from around the world to Dubai, and other destinations with just a single stop. Clark pointed out that more than a third of the world’s population lives within a four-hour flight from Dubai, and two-thirds within an eight-hour flight.

“The strategic location of Dubai makes it possible for us to serve almost 90 per cent of the world’s population with non-stop flights.”

The airline has grown exponentially since it debuted with Flight EK600 from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985.

This Friday, Emirates celebrates the 28th anniversary of its maiden flight -   Emirates Photo.
This Friday, Emirates celebrates the 28th anniversary of its maiden flight. Emirates Photo.

Today, Emirates operates nearly 3,200 flights a week to 135 destinations in 76 countries, including Canada and the United States. It carried more than 39 million passengers in 2012-13. With 37 Airbus A-380s, Emirates is the largest operator of the largest passenger aircraft in the world.

It has 53 more on order and opened the first dedicated concourse for the superjumbo in Dubai earlier this year. It is also the largest operator of Boeing 777s, with 131 in the fleet and 64 on order.

But the airline’s rapid growth has hurt other carriers in the region and beyond.

According to one report, in 2011-12, Emirates flew more international passengers in and out of India than India’s own national carrier Air India.

That is a testimony to the success of the “Dubai hub” concept.

Dubai International Airport. Emirates Photo.

Dubai International Airport. Emirates Photo.

In 2012, Dubai International Airport handled 57 million passengers from 225 destinations. A second airport, known as Dubai World Central  Al Maktoum International Airport, will open to passenger aircraft in a few days, ahead of next month’s Dubai Airshow. The organizers of the world’s fair have yet to decide which city will host Expo 2020, but Emirates and Dubai are gearing up to welcome an estimated 20 million visitors that year.