Friday, 7th April marked yet another milestone in Emirates’ India operations, as the airline’s inaugural flight into the North East Indian skies touched down to a warm welcome from the West Bengal Government. Travelling on the inaugural flight EK546 that departed Dubai’s ultra-modern international airport at 02:40 hours this morning, were Emirates’ senior management comprising Ghaith Al Ghaith, Executive Vice President Commercial Operations Worldwide; Nabil Sultan, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations West Asia & Indian Ocean; and a top-level Middle East press delegation.
On arrival at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at 08:55 hours, they were received by Mr Amit Kiran Deb, Chief Secretary, West Bengal Government and other senior bureaucrats.
Shortly after landing the Dubai-based airline held a briefing for the Bengali media.
Mr Al Ghaith said: “As Emirates spreads its wings and connects more Indian cities to the globe, we would like to thank the Indian Government and the West Bengal state officials for their continuous support. It is a result of their efforts that India is today witnessing an aviation boom.”
He added: ‘We are pleased to offer a direct air link between Dubai and North East India. I am confident that our new service will facilitate travel in both directions and create a greater exchange of business, tourism and culture.’
The airline though making its debut in North East India, has been serving the country since its inception, having begun services to Mumbai and Delhi in 1985. Currently Emirates connects Dubai to seven Indian destinations including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kolkata, with 63 weekly flights.
Emirates will fly six direct, non-stop flights per week to Kolkata, giving West Bengal and other neighbouring North East Indian states, direct access to Dubai, one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-emerging centres for tourism and commerce, and to Emirates’ global network of 82 cities in 57 countries, via Dubai.
‘Dubai’s excellent geographic location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and West Asia, also means travellers from North East India can easily connect onwards to many other destinations in the Emirates network,’ noted Mr Al Ghaith.
He added: ‘Emirates new service comes at an opportune time as India readies itself to sign a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which will catapult its trade with GCC countries to US$ 15 billion in the coming years. Our flights will also cater to North East India’s untapped travel and trade resources, as well as to the traditional trade exchange between India and the U.A.E.’
One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Emirates will operate the modern Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the route in three and two-class configurations offering over 1500 passenger seats and a little over 95 tonnes of cargo-carrying capacity per week.
Salem Obaidalla, Emirates’ Vice President India and Nepal said: ‘Kolkata’s travelling community is in for a royal treat as Emirates, with one of the youngest fleet in the skies comes in with a high-quality, three-class product and pioneering state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment.’
He added: ‘Our flights will provide travellers with better connectivity to Dubai, the destination of choice for tourists offering sun, sand, sea, sports, shopping, the sights and sounds of magical Arabia and top-class hospitality.’
In celebration of its launch, Emirates has introduced several attractive offers for Kolkata’s travellers. The ‘Free Dubai Nights’ offer entitles the airline’s First Class customers to two night’s complimentary accommodation in a Deluxe Room at the Ritz-Carlton, and Business and Economy Class Passengers to one night’s free accommodation in a Deluxe Room at the Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa and Dhow Palace Hotel respectively.
The airline is also offering ‘Special Companion Fares’ to its First and Business Class travellers visiting Dubai and select destinations beyond, between now and 15th May, 2006.
Kolkata, a fine blend of the old colonial culture and traditional Indian customs, will be promoted by Emirates Holidays, the largest wholesale tour operator in the Gulf and Middle East, in its World of Choice brochures, and through Emirates’ offices and travel agents across the network.
Emirates SkyCargo, the cargo arm of the airline will facilitate the export of leather products, silk fabrics and goods, tea, engineering spares and seafood, from Kolkata and surrounding North East Indian states to the Middle East, Europe and North America.
Imports to Kolkata set to ‘Fly Emirates’ include electronics, electrical and spare parts, and household goods.