MUSCAT: Qatar Airways’ celebratory inaugural launch of its first A380 super-jumbo took place in Doha recently, in the presence of the patron, the Prime Minister, Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, Minister of Finance and chairman of Qatar Airways, Ali Shareef al Emadi, Akbar al Baker, the group chief executive of Qatar Airways, Ministers, Sheikhs and Ambassadors.

Departing Hamburg, Germany, direct from the Airbus facility, it touched down at 1700hrs local time to a spectacular ceremony at Doha’s Hamad International Airport with more than 500 guests in attendance, including ministers of the State of Qatar, dignitaries, guests and members of the media.

With the press of a button, the event commenced with a symbolic drawing of the curtain, opened by the Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani.

Live entertainment and a dance troupe captivated the guests against the backdrop of the superjumbo aircraft in an event specially designed event next to the largest aircraft maintenance hangar in the world, able to accommodate 13 aircraft, including two A380s simultaneously, at any given time.

Addressing local and international media at a press conference on arrival, Baker said that the arrival of the new super-jumbo marks a moment of great pride for Qatar and the national airline.

“Qatar Airways has grown from strength to strength, and is recognised all around the world for its excellence and high standards, and this is thanks to the vision of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and His Highness the father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa a Thani.

“As Qatar’s national airline, we began operations in 1997 with just four aircraft operating to 14 regional routes. In 2003, we placed our order for the A380 super-jumbo and at that time we were operating to only 50 destinations with 28 aircraft. Today, as the A380 joins our rapidly growing fleet, we are operating 137 aircraft to 144 destinations in six continents.

“With the start of operations of Hamad International Airport just four months ago, it prepared us to begin operations for the A380 with specially designed boarding gates and facilities to facilitate seamless passenger experiences for this ultra-large aircraft.

“The A380 will form the backbone of our fleet, and support our strategy of facilitating predominantly long-haul traffic with high density, widebody aircraft,” said Baker. Special guests at the Qatar Airways’ A380 unveiling included FC Barcelona legend and former captain, FC Barcelona assistant director of Sport, Carles Puyol; one of FC Barcelona’s newest players, Luis Suarez, and FC Barcelona general director, Antoni Rossich.

London Heathrow will be the first route for the A380, operating as flight QR001.