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Emirates touches down to the beat of African drums

Emirates achieved a new milestone as it touched down to the vibrant beats of the African drums at Cape Town – its 100th global destination, and second gateway in South Africa. Signalling the start of daily, non-stop flights between Dubai, the nerve centre of the Middle East, and Cape Town, the inaugural flight EK 770 piloted by South African native, Captain Chris Rademan received a traditional water canon salute while onboard passengers were greeted by a pulsating performance by members of the Marimba band.

A high-level Emirates delegation comprising Nabil Sultan, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Gulf, Middle East and Iran, and Adnan Kazim, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Africa flew on the first flight accompanied by some 250 passengers hailing from 18 different countries, some coming from as far as the United States, France, Germany, Poland, Kuwait, Bahrain, India and Pakistan, in addition to Emirates’ home base, the United Arab Emirates.

The arriving Emirates delegation and passengers were welcomed by Lynne Brown, Member of the Executive Council, Western Cape Province; Calvyn Gilfellan, Chief Executive Officer, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the official tourism destination marketing organisation for Cape Town and the Western Cape; and over 50 representatives from Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Emirates South Africa.

As a result of South Africa’s growing economy and the escalating demand for air travel, the Dubai-based airline has steadily built up its presence in the country. Last year, Emirates strengthened its 14-flights-per-week Johannesburg service with an additional frequency, taking the weekly total to 21 flights.

Adnan noted: “Emirates is grateful to the South African government and airport officials for assisting us in the successful start of our daily operations to Cape Town. The new service will provide its customers in Europe, Middle East, the Indian-sub continent and Asia-Pacific with direct access to Cape Town, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. At the same time it will also open up over 90 global destinations for Cape Town’s travellers who can now avoid travelling via Johannesburg.”

He concluded: “Cape Town represents Emirates’ commitment to the South African market. Our Johannesburg operation has been very successful and we look forward to recreating this success in Cape Town with the support of our partners.”

Provincial Minister Brown added: "The new flight will give us more direct air access to the Middle East, which is a very significant tourism market and world-wide hub for Cape Town and the Western Cape. It is also one of the markets we will focus on in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

Gilfellan said: “In many aspects the Middle East represents the inbound luxury tourism market for Cape Town and the Western Cape, with travellers often seeking a top-quality tourism experience: leading tourist attractions, spectacular golf courses, five-star hotels, elegant restaurants, and shopping for world-famous brands. Cape Town and the Western Cape easily deliver on each of these aspects. We believe this hassle-free, direct flight will definitely add to this luxury tourism experience and encourage more people to visit Cape Town and its surrounds.”

Cape Town represents the first new gateway to be launched by Emirates in 2008. The airline has already announced its plans to start services to Calicut, India and Guangzhou, China, both on 1st July followed by Los Angeles on 1st September. 

To Cape Town, Emirates will introduce approximately 2000 seats and over 100 tonnes of cargo capacity per week – a development that will surely be welcomed by business and leisure travellers on either sides of the equator.

The day’s events were concluded with the ceremonial cutting of a cake, and an exchange of gifts between the Emirates and South African delegations. Later that evening Emirates’ return flight bound for Dubai welcomed its first Cape Town passengers.