The Eagle, er, the Emirates, has landed. At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, at about 8:45 this morning, to great fanfare – as shown in the photo above of the so-called “shower of affection” that was accorded the Boeing 777-200LR aircraft upon touchdown. (“Shower of affection” means something else where I come from, but apparently this is an aviation ritual.) The plane had left Dubai about 16 hours earlier, becoming Emirates Airline’s first-ever daily, non-stop flight to D/FW. It was scheduled to turn around and head back to the United Arab Emirates a couple of hours later.
As part of the inaugural hullabaloo, various government and airline officials cut a cake, said “Howdy” a lot, and gave each other gifts. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price handed Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, her black cowboy hat. When the ambassador (they actually call him “Excellency”) put it on, he joked, “I’m gonna get shot when I get back to D.C.” That was an apparent reference to the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry (we think).
The officials also said that Texas is the U.S. leader in exports to the UAE, accounting for $2 billion of the $16 billion that’s logged annually. That figure, they added, is sure to increase with the new service to Dubai, which in turn will offer flyers connections to many more destinations in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.
At that they opened up the 777 for a quick tour, showing off the plane’s gourmet grub, red-capped flight attendants (see below), all-class entertainment system (100 TV channels, 500 audio channels, 100 video games, etc., at each screen), and luxury seating. At each of the “lie-flat” beds in Business Class, for example, rose petals had been strewn, and one immaculate little pair of white “sleeping socks” had been set out. The 777 seats 266 passengers in all, eight in private suites with their own bar.
According to Nigel Page, Emirates’ senior VP for commercial operations, the new service is expected to produce an economic impact of $227 million on North Texas annually. He said that today’s flight from Dubai had been at 76 percent of capacity, that the return flight would be 100 percent full, and that he expected all the airline’s daily flights to average 75 percent capacity in the early going.