Emirates boss says record UAE rain cost airline $110 million

The Dubai carrier is undertaking a 'major review' of its contingency processes, Tim Clark says

Passengers queue at a flight connection desk at the Dubai International Airport on April 17, 2024. Record rains in Dubai forced nearly 400 flights to be cancelled at th Dubai airport. AFP
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Emirates is reviewing its contingency processes after record-breaking rain that swamped the UAE in April cost the airline $110 million, the airline's president said on Sunday.

“It was a very, very difficult situation to manage,” Tim Clark said during a media briefing at the 80th International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Dubai.

“Our baggage systems became inundated with water, labels were falling off, containers all over the airfield – it was very difficult to get a handle on it.

“It got so bad that access to the airport was underwater, so nobody could get to the airport.”

For Emirates, it was “a Dh400 million cost” in that one incident, he added. “We measured that we had to do the right thing with our customers' claims and all other bits and pieces.”

In April, Mr Clark apologised to passengers after days of disruption including flight cancellations and delays, with much of Dubai International Airport and the roads around it flooded.

He said dozens of flights were diverted, while nearly 400 were cancelled and “many more” delayed, as operations “remained challenged by staffing and supply shortages”.

Emirates' protocols were “under huge stress and challenges” and were overwhelmed by the situation, Mr Clark said on Sunday.

“We've got to be far more aggressive, if you can call it that, and if necessary, stop the operations and deal with all the fallout,” he said.

“That was always the last contingent … we never thought water would do that.”

Now the airline is undertaking a major review of its procedures, Mr Clark said.

“Next, we will go back to our major review going over all the processes to make sure we reshape our armour plate,” he said.

“If it happens again, we're still going to face the same problem but, hopefully, we will be in a better place from the source, and that means we have to spend money on manpower, ground equipment and training.”

Emirates has a “very big contingency response group” that deals with any scenarios that might happen and that is exercised three to four times a year.

The airline is expected to move its operations to the new passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International Airport within a decade and the new base will take into account lessons learnt in terms of “maximising the evacuation of water”, Mr Clark said.

The new passenger terminal at DWC is expected to be completed by 2032 to 2034 and the plan is to move Emirates' massive operations from Dubai International Airport to its new home in one go.

“It is likely that we will, as best as we can, do it overnight,” Mr Clark said.

“It will be very, very rapid. The airport has been designed in a manner that it will be a mega hub.

“Everything about it will improve everything that Emirates does, and the other carriers.”

The new passenger terminal will be a “well oiled” and “easy-to-run” operation, which will make the transition easier, he added.

Updated: June 03, 2024, 3:54 PM