By Caitlin Dineen: The first Emirates flight landed in Orlando on Tuesday, making a new connection between Florida and Dubai.
A water salute welcomed the Airbus A380 — the first of its kind scheduled to land at Orlando International Airport — as it touched down shortly after 11:30 a.m., ending its inaugural 15-hour flight.
"Emirates' nonstop service to Dubai opens a new world of opportunity for Orlando to pursue tourism and business exchanges with the Middle East, Africa and Asia," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a news release.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said county leaders want to develop a direct business connection with Dubai as soon as possible.
"We very much look forward to the opportunity to build business partnerships," she said.
While 30 various Central Florida business leaders are heading to Dubai this week to discuss new partnerships, Jacobs said a focused "economic-development mission" will begin early next year.
The air service becomes Emirates' 10th connection in the United States. The airline serves 147 cities worldwide.
George Aguel, president and chief executive officer of Visit Orlando, said the new air service means more tourists coming to the region.
"For us it's really a fabulous opportunity for us to use them as a vehicle to remind, if not reinforce, today we don't get as much visitation from those areas," said Aguel. "So it's all upside for us."
Last year, Orlando had 62 million visitors, making it the first city to surpass 60 million tourists in a year.
Aguel said Visit Orlando will make a bigger push to court tourists in India. Visit Orlando staff based in Delhi and Mumbai can tout easier access to the Sunshine State because of possible connections through Dubai.
Tuesday's inaugural flight, which was nearly full, was a one-off with the landing of the Airbus A380. That plane, Emirates' flagship aircraft, features two shower spas and a lounge for passengers. It has 14 first-class suites and business-class seats on the top level and 399 economy seats on the bottom.
Passengers flying to and from Orlando, however, will fly on a Boeing 777-200 LR. That plane can seat 266, including eight first-class suites, 42 business-class and 216 economy seats.
Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group, said it was promising that the inaugural flight on the larger aircraft was near capacity.
"I hope that's very soon on the Orlando route," he said of the larger aircraft.