Remembering Emirates' World Guinness Record Flight

Four years ago, Emirates set out to fly the most multicultural flight in history aboard one of its A380s.



February 4, 2023

DALLAS — One of two flag carriers of the UAE, Emirates (EK), has its name inked in the Guinness World Records book. On November 29, 2019, the Middle East's largest airline made history by carrying more than 500 passengers of 145 nationalities on a single flight.

"Tolerance Flight," as it was named, was operated by an EK A380 on the day when the UAE celebrated its 48th National Day. The UAE is known for having a large number of foreign residents, and the special flight was created to celebrate the country's diversity.

We take a deep dive into the most multicultural flight in history, a feat achieved by Flight EK2019.

Emirates year of tolerance flight | Photo: Emirates Twitter

Preparing the "Year of Tolerance Livery"

Over the years, EK has crafted unique liveries for its widebody fleet, which includes Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. For the Tolerance Flight, EK decided to design the "Year of Tolerance" livery on one of its Airbus A380-800s, registration A6-EVB, which earlier was planned to be delivered to Japan's Skymark Airlines.

The EK team painted the superjumbo jet in its in-house, state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance facility located in Dubai, UAE—the airline has one of the world's most technologically refined aircraft maintenance facilities. Two days before the flight, EK rolled out the special jet.

The "Year of Tolerance" livery depicts people from various locations and cultures holding hands in solidarity. The colorful images embellished both sides of the plane.

The airline scheduled the remarkable "flight to nowhere," which would take off from Dubai International Airport (DXB) and, after circling the country, land back at DXB.

The Gulf carrier also created a notable inflight resource for making the experience unforgettable for its passengers.

Emirates year of tolerance flight | Photo: Emirates Twitter

Prepping for the World Record flight

The UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities. Emirates put out a call to UAE residents to voluntarily participate in the flight. EK aimed to get at least one individual from every nationality based in the UAE. The carrier was able to welcome 540 citizens from 145 nationalities onboard the flight.

The flight welcomed passengers from diverse origins, races, religions, and cultures and included families, Emirates Group staff, and "People of Determination," or people with disabilities, whom the UAE recognizes for their achievements in different fields.

Passengers were encouraged to come dressed to represent their culture. Throughout the flight, their kaleidoscopic outfits became a dynamic collage honoring their distinct heritages and traditions.

EK2019 was commanded by UAE nationals Capt. Abbas Shaban and Capt. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, and FO Karin Arning from Germany. While there were 22 cabin crew members from 18 countries, the inflight team was led by flight purser Jafar Hamad, a UAE national.

Emirates year of tolerance flight | Photo: Emirates Twitter

Welcoming 145 Nationalities

The carrier wanted to welcome as many nationalities as possible on the A380 for the journey across all seven emirates. After passengers checked in, they were welcomed by the EK flight crew and asked to take souvenir photos to mark the memorable event.

Prior to boarding the A380, a customized stamp to mark the flight was put on each boarding pass as an added memento for passengers. There was also a wall where passengers could write their wishes for a year of tolerance.

Emirates ice- award-winning inflight entertainment system
Emirates ice- award-winning inflight entertainment system | Photo: Emirates Twitter account

Inflight Experience

The plane took off on a sunny day with more than 540 passengers representing 145 different countries. When the A380 took to the skies, notable "Year of Tolerance" content became available on the IFE system. A lunch box with EK2019 branding was also served to passengers.

The flight was supposed to last one hour, but it flew for another 30 minutes. EK2019 cruised at 7,000 feet for better visibility for UAE citizens.

Just before descent, an authorized adjudicator from Guinness World Records, who confirmed the nationality count in flight, officially declared the new world record for most nationalities on board an aircraft.

On December 29, 2019, EK2019 set the Guinness World Record for having 540 passengers of 145 nationalities onboard a single flight.

Back on the Ground

As passengers disembarked, they were handed certificates of participation for taking interest in the historic flight: "Congratulations! Thank you for helping us be part of history and achieving the Guinness World Records title for most nationalities on an aircraft on EK2019 from Dubai in the UAE Year of Tolerance on Friday, November 29, 2019."

A special ceremony took place in front of the A380 to celebrate the record, and a group picture with all 541 passengers was taken in front of the EK's “Year of Tolerance” Airbus A380.

The airline said that there were around 30,000 citizens who expressed interest by registering for the special flight on the 48th UAE National Day. EK mentions that the average flight operated by them has approximately 15 nationalities among the crew, with passengers with an average of more than 50 nationalities in total.

Emirates year of tolerance flight | Photo: Emirates Twitter

Comments from Emirates, Guinness World Records

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman, and CEO, of Emirates Airline & Group, said: “The UAE has become a remarkable symbol of tolerance and coexistence, welcoming people from over 200 nationalities and backgrounds, all living together in solidarity and harmony. It is in fact the diversity of the citizens and residents of the UAE that unite us and makes us stronger through mutual respect and opening bridges of common dialogue, and today’s flight is a celebration of that spirit, which is very much a part of our everyday lives here in the UAE.”

Talal Omar, Director MENA, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, said: “We congratulate both the UAE and Emirates Airlines for making history today. This achievement reflects the keenness to spread the spirit of tolerance and show the real image of moderation. The UAE has always been a place of peace and coexistence for people from different backgrounds, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or gender. It is inspiring to see all these people coming together to create an environment that celebrates diversity and understanding. Congratulations, Emirates Airline, you are 'Officially Amazing'.”

The Emirates A380 flew to around 50 destinations for the following 12 months to spread messages of tolerance and mutual respect wherever it landed. Will the Emirates EK2019 Guinness World Record be broken by any other airline? Do let us know on our social media channels.

Feature Image: Emirates year of tolerance flight | Photo: Emirates Twitter