A specially decked out Airbus A380 is due to arrive in New Zealand soon, painted up to celebrate the legendary UK football fixture - the FA Cup.

Emirates has painted up one of its jets promote its sponsorship of the cup at its Dubai base. The jet then flew to London Heathrow, where it was met by former England and Liverpool goalkeeper David James.

FA Cup semi-finals are being played this weekend, with the final scheduled for Saturday, May 21.

"The Emirates FA Cup A380 will literally bring the iconic cup to a fan base spanning the globe. It is exciting for us to connect both football and aviation fans with their passions in this unique way, " said airline president Sir Tim Clark.


Emirates also sponsors Premier League club Arsenal.

The Emirates FA Cup emblazoned aircraft will return to Dubai and then continue on to Seoul, Madrid, Paris and eventually visit all the 37 destinations served by the Emirates A380 worldwide, including New Zealand, which has three daily A380 services from Auckland to Dubai and beyond via Australia.

It's still not confirmed exactly what day the aircraft will be arriving in New Zealand.

Emirates has grown dramatically since it arrive in New Zealand 13 years ago.

Since 2003 the Middle Eastern carrier has expanded to the point where it now operates five daily services here, flying more than 2000 seats into and out of the country every day.

The fifth service - a non-stop flight into Auckland from Dubai, avoiding the usual stopover in Australia - launched last month.