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A lot of folks in the oil business know where Dubai is: In the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf.

Soon, it will be on everyone's map, as Emirates one of the most competitive airlines in the world starts flying to Dubai nonstop from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Some travelers may not have heard of Emirates, but the world's airlines have.

The carrier owns more thantwice as many Boeing 777 jets as American Airlines, and more Airbus superjumbo 380s than any other airline.

Emirates has been flying from Houston to Dubai for two years. By adding Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on February 2 and Seattle in March, the airline isexpanding its reach into North America.

As in Houston, its first target customers will be business travelers. But with the world's tallest building and curiosities such as indoor skiing in Dubai, Emirates hopes to attract leisure travelers as well.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)has declared airlines to be a strategic industry. To succeed at D/FW, Emirates has to lure travelers to Dubai as a destination... or to travel through it on their way somewhereelse.

The potential may be greater than some Americans think.

One-third of the world's population lives within a four-hour flight from Dubai. Emirates Airline, which is wholly owned by the UAE, has its own hub terminal in Dubai. The airport nowhosts 120 air carriers and serves 50 million passengers a year.

It is now the fifth-busiest airport in the world with a goal to become number one.

Dubai has all the qualities to become the world's hub, said Thierry Antinori, executive vice president of passenger sales for Emirates.

Emirates enjoys 30 percent lower labor costs than U.S. airlines. D/FW Airportwooed Emirates with the promise of more profits and free rent.

We give them rent relief for two years, and after that they pay full rent, explained D/FW CEO Jeff Fegan. Fegan notes that the rent deal is a standard offer to all new carriers at the airport foreign or domestic.

When the firstEmirates 777 lands at D/FW next month, the airline will put its brand on North Texas. The buzz phrase, perhaps: Today D/FW, tomorrow the world.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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