DUBAI: Dubai's Emirates Airlines began operations Wednesday from a $3 billion new concourse dedicated to Airbus' A380 superjumbos at the Gulf city-state's rapidly-expanding airport.
Flight EK003 took off to London Heathrow from Concourse A, which will become "home of the Emirates A380," and add a capacity to handle 15 million passengers a year, said a statement by Emirates -- one of the world's fastest-growing carriers.
The new extension to Terminal 3, featuring 20 gates specifically designed to accommodate Airbus' longhaul airliners, will open gradually, with just four gates operational on Wednesday, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said in another statement.
"This is a historic and momentous occasion, marking another world first from Emirates," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates and of Dubai Airports.
The government-owned carrier is the largest operator of A380, with a fleet of 31 and another 59 units on order.
The new concourse spreads across 11 floors with a total area of 528,000 square metres (5.7 million square feet). It cost $3 billion to build.
Dubai Airports has undertaken a $7.8 billion to further expand the capacity of the international travel hub, as it expects to handle 75 million passengers by 2015 and 98 million passengers by 2020.
It expected the number of passengers who used Dubai International airport in 2012 to be around 57 million.
Emirates had moved its operations to Terminal 3 in 2008, when the new complex opened dedicated to the national carrier of Dubai, leaving the older Terminal One to foreign airlines.
The new facility will be available to A380 flights to Europe operated by Australia's Qantas, as per the global partnership announced recently and awaiting the approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Emirates said.
Emirates has a fleet of 195 wide-body Airbus and Boeing, and has some 204 units on orders worth more than $74 billion, it said. It flies to 128 destinations in 74 countries.