How Emirates filmed their incredible Burj Khalifa flypast stunt

Jan 19, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct the height of the Burj Khalifa and the nationality of Nicole Smith-Ludvik. 


What do you get when you cross an Emirates air stewardess with the world’s tallest building, and an A380 jumbo jet? 

A tear-jerkingly expensive but spectacular airline promotional video is what!

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In Emirates’ latest advert released on 14 January, a woman dressed in the company’s iconic steward’s uniform stands on the uppermost pinnacle of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa holding a sign that reads: “I’m still here.”

Image courtesy of Emirates/YouTube

 

The joke, of course, is that she’s been standing there in the swirling winds of the earth’s troposphere for five months since the last time Emirates did a similar stunt for an ad last August.

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Then – in what is surely an oblique nod to Bob Dillan’s 1965 Subterranean Homesick Blues music video, or maybe that scene in Love Actually where Andrew Lincoln tells Keira Knightly he loves her while her boyfriend watches TV – she pulls away the card to reveal another: “Wow! I can see Dubai Expo.”

And as if it weren’t terrifying enough to see her teetering, and smiling, 0.5 miles (0.8 km) above ground, an Emirate’s Airbus 380 booms into the shot, so close that you feel she could almost reach out and touch it. 

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Still, before the advert ends, she manages to get through a few more cards explaining that the reason she’s up there is to tell you to fly the Emirates A380 to the Dubai World Expo, that’s currently taking place in the UAE’s millionaire’s playground.   

It is a genuinely jaw-dropping piece of filming that, unsurprisingly, took weeks to organise, plan and execute. 

And to prove there were no green screens involved in the making of the ad, Emirates have also released their “making of” video to show how it was really done.  

The star of the ad is American skydiver and stuntwoman Nicole Smith-Ludvik, who climbed the iconic tower before sunrise to get to the top in time for the dawn light on 14 October last year. 

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She and the crew took the lift to the 160th floor of the Burj Khalifa, and then spent an hour climbing a narrow winding staircase to get to the very top.

There, she was attached by a safety harness to a specially-designed platform, where she stood for five hours while the A380 flew past 11 times (at 145 knots) to get the perfect shot. The flypast required the colourful A380 to fly at 2,700 feet, the same height as the Burj Khalifa.

Emirates Burj Khalifa advert. Image courtesy of Emirates/YouTube

Dubai’s air command even closed down the air space above the city so no other planes might get in the way of the jumbo jet as it circled the city for just over three hours.

Emirates Burj Khalifa advert. Image courtesy of Emirates/YouTube

It’s the second time the airline has pulled a stunt like this, coming five months after it filmed a similar advert without the A380, which you can view below.

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