New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Emirates Airline flew in the first Airbus A-380 super jumbo with 517 passengers on a scheduled commercial operation into India Thursday, and was welcomed at the spanking new Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport through arching jets of water in an aviation industry salute.
Twenty-five years after it first flew to Delhi, the UAE-based Emirates became the first international carrier to land at Terminal 3 that signals a major leap in modernisation of aviation infrastructure for India. The terminal was inaugurated with great fanfare by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling UPA coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi earlier this month.
‘We brought the A-380 to Delhi to show the importance we attach to the Indian market. We have had a healthy load factor of around 80-85 percent to India,’ said Majid Al Mualla, the airline’s senior vice president for West Asia and Indian Ocean.
‘We have also been growing at around 15 percent annually here. This is a very important market and growing,’ Al Mualla told IANS on board the special A-380 flight, for which an introductory return fare of Rs.9,990 was offered by the airline with all taxes.
The first time the A-380 landed at the Delhi airport was on the morning of May 6, 2007, as part of a test-cum-promotional visit for Airbus, flying in from its headquarters at Toulouse in France.
The 517-seat aircraft of Emirates, spread over two decks, offered 14 flat-bed first class private suites with electronic doors, 76 fully-flat seats in business class and 427 contoured seats in economy spread across four roomy cabins on the lower deck.
It also extended to its first and business class passengers private suites, shower spas and an onboard lounge with a wide range of drinks and canapes and the space to socialise or simply relax, officials said.
This apart, passengers in all classes can enjoy the in-flight entertainment, that has more than 1,000 channels of on-demand, including 200 movies from around the world, 100 television channels, some 500 audio channels and over 100 video games.
‘The experience was something difficult to explain,’ said S. Shammy, an architecture based out of Dubai. ‘I booked a ticket for this expericnce. I must say, it has been a real value for money,’ Shammy, busy clicking photos all through the journey, added.
Emirates has the largest fleet of A-380s and currently flies 11 of the aircraft that serve destinations such as London, Toronto, Bangkok, Paris, Jeddah, Seoul, Sydney and Auckland.
It also will fly to Beijing from Aug 1, to Manchester from Sep 1 and resume the services to New York from Oct 31. The airline recently inducted a brand new A-380 into its fleet, taking the total number of A-380s to 11.
It recently placed a $11.5 billion order with Airbus for an additional 32 A380s, taking the total firm order to 90 to signal the carrier’s confidence in the long-term growth of air travel.
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)