The aviation world’s first A380 operation to Seoul, and Emirates’ first A380 flight to North East Asia touched down to a vibrant and colourful welcome at Incheon International Airport last week.

The first commercial A380 jet to land on Korean soil brought with it passengers from 27 countries including the U.A.E., Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and the UK, and over 10 tonnes of cargo.

The new service demonstrates Emirates’ investment in the Korean economy, perfectly timed to support ‘Visit Korea Year’ in 2010. It will operate initially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, advancing to a daily operation from 27th December.

A high-level Emirates delegation led by Tim Clark, President, Emirates airline travelled on the first A380 flight. It included Richard Vaughan, Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Worldwide and Richard Jewsbury, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Far East and Australasia. On arrival the delegation was welcomed by CW Lee, President and CEO of Incheon International Airport Corporation; YJ Woo, Chief Administrator of Seoul Regional Aviation Administration; Sonia Hong, Secretary General of Visit Korea Committee and over 120 government dignitaries and media personnel.

Mr. Clark noted: “Emirates is delighted to launch Korea’s first A380 service. Our partners at Incheon International Airport have invested heavily to make the airport a world-class A380 facility and for this we thank them.

“Air transportation is a key facilitator of economic growth. Since the launch of Emirates services to Seoul in 2005 using an Airbus 340-300, we have stimulated the flow of business and leisure traffic to and from Korea. Our flights have connected Korea to potential and emerging Middle East and African markets thus creating new business opportunities. Our services have also served the needs of over 70,000 Korean corporate travellers and holiday-makers visiting the UAE annually.

“While I am confident the enhanced capacity of the A380 will add further momentum to the growth of the Korean economy, I believe it is just not enough. The strong demand for passenger and cargo services on the Dubai-Seoul-Dubai route outstrips the available capacity which is restricted by the present bilateral agreement to eight flights a week. ”

The U.A.E. and Korea share close relations, strengthened further with the high profile visits of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai to Korea in May 2007, and of Noh Moo-Hyun, the (late) President of Korea to the U.A.E. in 2007.

Korea is a major stakeholder in Dubai’s expansion and Korean companies are involved in some of the most high-profile projects in the emirate. Korea is also one of the UAE’s leading trade partners with over 150% growth in total trade over the past five years. The U.A.E. and in particular Dubai is home to the Arab world’s largest Korean population. Close to a 1000 Koreans work for Emirates airline alone, primarily as cabin crew.

Emirates A380 operation will support the Korean government’s drive to make Incheon International Airport a major Asian hub. Mr. Lee said:

Emirates A380 operation will support the Korean government’s drive to make Incheon International Airport a major Asian hub. Mr. Lee said: “I am delighted Emirate airline has chosen Incheon International Airport as its first A380 destination in Northeast Asia. In January 2009 we committed to give the very best service to Emirates’ A380, and by September 2009 we had completed all our infrastructure upgrades. We now boast a world-class A380 facility, and are equally excited to welcome A380 services by other airlines.”

Seoul is Emirates sixth A380 destination, and comes a few days ahead of the airline’s scheduled A380 operations to Paris on 29th December. Currently the Dubai-based airline has six A380s in its fleet which are operating to London, Sydney, Auckland, Bangkok and Toronto.

The Emirates’ A380 represents the latest innovation and technology from a company recognised internationally for its in-flight amenities and services. Unique to the Emirates aircraft are its Shower Spas – two fully-equipped bathrooms in the First class cabin with shower facilities. Emirates’ A380 ground-breaking in-flight product also features an Onboard Lounge for First and Business class passengers, which includes a bar with a wide range of beverages and canapés and an exclusive space to socialise and relax.

First class passengers relax in flat-bed, massage-equipped suites while Business class passengers enjoy a new generation of intelligent, flat-bed seating designed to ensure all seats have aisle access. Passengers in Economy will appreciate the straight walls throughout the cabin that lend to a more spacious ambience, enhanced further by generous seats and wider aisles.

Emirates flight EK 322 (14 First, 76 Business, 427 Economy class seats) departs Dubai at 03:00 hours arriving in Seoul at 16:00 hours. It turns around as EK 323 departing Seoul at 23:55 hours and arriving in Dubai at 05:05 hours. The service is code-shared with Korean Air and will be identified with ‘EK’ as well as ‘KE’ code.