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Before the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, What Did Emirates fly?

Emirates Airbus A340

The story of Emirates’ fleet begins much humbler than the image of the vast hub carrier it’s known as today. Commencing operations in October 1985, Emirates’ initial flights to Karachi and Mumbai were on a much smaller scale, utilizing an Airbus A300 and a Boeing 737-300, both loaned from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). This marked the beginning of a journey that would see Emirates evolve into a carrier synonymous with some of the largest aircraft in the sky.

Despite its present-day association with widebody jets, Emirates’ early fleet included narrowbody aircraft. Three Boeing 727s, a model renowned for its single-aisle design, were part of Emirates in the late 1980s. These jets had a brief stint with the airline and were later repurposed for cargo by Kalitta Charters, showcasing the versatility and enduring utility of the aircraft.

Photo by Aero Icarus

Transition to Widebody Dominance

July 1987 was a pivotal moment for Emirates, marking the arrival of its first owned aircraft, an Airbus A310. This event signaled the airline’s transition towards a widebody-focused fleet. Emirates operated a total of 13 A310s, including three freighters, up until 2008. These aircraft were instrumental in shaping Emirates’ early widebody operations.


Emirates’ commitment to widebody aircraft expanded with the introduction of 29 Airbus A330-200s between 1999 and 2003. These aircraft, primarily used on Middle Eastern and Indian routes, varied in configuration, reflecting Emirates’ flexible approach to catering to different market demands.

The Airbus A340 Era

The Airbus A340 marked Emirates’ foray into quadjet operations, with the fleet comprising both A340-300s and A340-500s. These aircraft were introduced between October 2003 and September 2005, offering a mix of three-class configurations. The A340s, however, had a relatively short tenure with Emirates, with the last of these quadjets leaving the fleet by 2016. The final A340 rotation served Kabul, marking the end of an era for Emirates’ single-decker quadjet operations.

Boeing’s Influence: 747 Freighters and 777s

Emirates’ relationship with Boeing jets has been significant, although predominantly in the cargo domain. The carrier operated 10 Boeing 747-400F aircraft from January 2001 to January 2020, mainly through partnerships with other cargo operators like Atlas Air. The introduction of Boeing 777s in 1996 further cemented Emirates’ preference for widebody aircraft, with an initial order of seven 777s and an equal number of options.

Read aslo: Emirates SkyCargo Strengthens Fleet with Boeing 747-400 Freighters

Photo by: U.Eimers

The history of Emirates’ fleet is a testament to the airline’s strategic growth and adaptability. From its early days operating narrowbody aircraft to its current status as the operator of the largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, Emirates has continually evolved to meet changing market demands and opportunities. As the airline anticipates the introduction of the Boeing 777X, it stands as a symbol of the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of commercial aviation. What are your thoughts on Emirates’ fleet evolution?

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