Dubai carrier Emirates said it will run a one-off Airbus A380 test service to Beirut on March 29, and resume a second daily service to Lisbon to tap Portugal's improving economic growth.
The airline’s flagship double-decker will fly to Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport for the first time, to test the operations and infrastructure required to accommodate an A380 service.
Emirates is the world’s largest operator of A380s and last month finalised an order with the European plane manufacturer Airbus for 20 new A380s, with an option for 16 additional aircraft.
The air transport industry, including tourists arriving by air, is estimated to contribute 12 per cent of Lebanon's GDP, according to a 2014 report by research firm Oxford Economics and industry body the International Air Transport Association. The industry is estimated to support more than 170,000 jobs in Lebanon, either directly or indirectly, the report said.
The special service will operate as flights EK 957 and EK 958, departing Dubai at 7.25am and arriving in Beirut at 10.30am. The return flight will depart Beirut at 2.15pm and arrive in Dubai at 7.05pm.
Emirates will also resume a second daily service to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, from June 1, using a three-cabin Boeing 777-300ER with eight newly designed private suites in first class, it said.
"Portugal is experiencing an upturn in its economy and strong tourism growth," said Hubert Frach, Emirates' divisional senior vice president of commercial operations, West (Americas, Africa, Europe).
“The second daily service between Dubai and Lisbon will therefore meet growing demand for seats on the route, as well as offer our customers in Portugal and from across Emirates’ worldwide network more choice and flexibility when planning their travel.”
Portugal’s annual GDP growth grew 2.7 per cent in 2017, faster than 1.5 per cent in 2016 and the strongest growth rate in 17 years, mainly due to rising exports, according to Trading Economics.
Emirates first launched a second daily flight to Lisbon in January 2016 but suspended it that September for commercial reasons, a spokeswoman said. The new second flight, EK193, will depart Dubai at 2.25pm and arrive in Lisbon at 7.40pm, while the return flight EK194, will leave Lisbon at 9.15pm and land in Dubai at 8.05am the next morning.
The current daily flight, EK191, departs Dubai at 7.25am and arrives in Lisbon at 12.35pm, and return flight EK192 departs Lisbon at 2.15pm and arrives back in Dubai 1.10am.