Last updated: 05:27 PM ET, Wed July 20 2016

Emirates Lands First Commercial A380 Flight to O'Hare

Airlines & Airports | Theresa Norton | July 20, 2016

Emirates Lands First Commercial A380 Flight to O'Hare

PHOTO: An Emirates A380 landed at Chicago’s O’Hare, a first for the airport, at an upgraded gate designed to accommodate the double-decker airplane. (photo by Theresa Norton)

The first commercial flight to Chicago on the double-decker Airbus 380 landed at O’Hare International Airport on July 19.

The Emirates A380 landing was a one-time flight to test out a new gangway designed to let passengers board and disembark both levels of the plane at the same time. It’s located at Gate M11/M11A in the international terminal. Emirates usually operates a Boeing 777-300 on its daily ORD-Dubai run.

Emirates threw a cocktail party to celebrate the flight, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the giant A380-800, which has 14 first-class “private suites” and 76 lie-flat business-class seats on the upper level and 399 economy seats on the lower level.

The upper level also has two showers in the first-class cabin and a bar, both made famous in TV commercials starring Jennifer Aniston.

READ MORE: Emirates Signs on as Premiere Partner for Dubai’s Expo 2020

Rob Gurney, Emirates’ senior vice president of the Americas, said the A380 was swapped for the 777 just this once to test out the upgraded gate at the invitation of O’Hare officials. But there “are no definitive plans” to permanently switch to the larger plane unless demand grows enough to warrant the additional capacity, he said. (Incidentally, Emirates announced plans on July 20 to add a second daily A380 flight between Milan and Dubai.)

O’Hare upgraded the gate to make sure it could accommodate A380s should an airline decide to operate one to Chicago. Several have expressed interest, but nothing is official yet, city aviation officials said.

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of A380, the world’s biggest commercial jet, with 81 of the planes and 61 on order. It currently flies the A380 between Dubai and four U.S. cities — New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.

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