Dubai airport operating at reduced capacity as it tries to clear flight backlog

Only one runway has been in use since Wednesday evening after Emirates flight EK521 crash-landed and was then destroyed by fire.

Indian passengers wait for their flight at the departure lounge at Dubai International Airport. Karim Sahib / AFP
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DUBAI // Passengers at Dubai International Airport will have to cope with disruption and delays until Saturday in the aftermath of the Emirates aircraft crash landing on Wednesday.

Parent company Dubai Airports said it would be in “recovery mode” for 48 hours from Thursday afternoon, with efforts in full swing to clear backlogged flights.

At lunchtime on Thursday, Emirates airline warned passengers to expect disruptions for 36 hours.

After Emirates EK521 crash landed, a number of the Dubai carrier’s flights were either cancelled or diverted to other airports, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

In the crash aftermath, the airport was closed for about six hours with flights either cancelled, delayed or diverted.

The airport gradually started to resume operations at about 6.30pm on Wednesday, but with only one runway.

To compensate, airport authorities were maximising the use of Al Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali.

“Dubai Airports is working with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs and Dubai Police to assist passengers with issues relating to visa expiry and lost passports,” it said.

“Due to reduced capacity, we are having to prioritise arriving flights over departing flights to make the best use of available runway to clear the backlog.”

The second runway opened at about 5.45pm on Thursday, Dubai Airports said on Twitter Thursday evening.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths: 'We are facilitating as fast as we can the capacity for airlines to ensure a quick recovery.'

In all, Emirates said 27 of its flights were cancelled on Wednesday and there were knock-on delays and rescheduling across the network.

The carrier said 23 flights were diverted to alternative airports – Sharjah, Al Maktoum International, Fujairah, Al Ain, Muscat and Bahrain.

In total, more than 23,000 Emirates passengers were impacted by the disruption.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to our affected passengers, and ask for their continued understanding and patience as our teams work to restore operations back to normal,” Emirates said.

Budget carrier FlyDubai said that 78 of its scheduled flights were cancelled, with 26 cancelled on Thursday alone.

It said on Friday that three more flights were cancelled Friday and one on Saturday.

"We're working hard to minimise the disruption to your travel plans following the closure of Dubai International yesterday," it said on its website.

“Today, there will continue to be delays and cancellations.”

Indian carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet Airlines said they had cancelled all flights to and from Dubai on Thursday.

Overall, Dubai Airports said that 116 arriving and 121 departing flights were cancelled and 44 inbound flights were diverted to neighbouring airports.

All 282 passengers and 18 crew onboard flight EK521 were taken off safely following the accident.

Emirates said 157 passengers disembarked in Dubai and left the airport on Wednesday while 107 continued their journey, rebooked on other flights.

Thirteen passengers chose to remain in Dubai for a few days.

Five people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The airline said both the captain and first officer on the flight have “7,000 hours of flying experience each” and it was cooperating with local authorities to determine the cause of the accident.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates, met the crew, who were all safe and accounted for, the airline said.

One cabin crew member was hospitalised but was “in good condition”, Emirates said.

Dubai Airports said that all food outlets across Dubai International and Al Maktoum were providing free refreshments and water. Free wifi was also made available at Dubai International.

Emirates passengers with tickets bought on or before August 3, 2016, can rebook or cancel their bookings at no charge, the airline said and recommended its website or a Emirates sales offices.

Passengers due to travel in the next 24 hours, should check their flight's status at the Emirates website, it said.