DUBAI // Dubai and Sharjah International airports were closed for more than hour on Saturday night when a drone intruded into airspace.
Airspace around Dubai was closed from 7.25pm to 8.45pm “due to unauthorised drone activity resulting in the diversion of 22 inbound flights”, Dubai Airports said. “Dubai Airports is working closely with stakeholders to return operations to normal to minimise customer inconvenience.
“Safety is our top priority and Dubai Airports reminds all UAV [drone] operators that any and all activities are not permitted unless authorised by regulatory authorities, and are strictly prohibited in restricted areas including within 5 kilometres of any airport or landing area.”
At least eight flights were also affected at Sharjah International because it and Dubai airports share flight paths.
The closure at Sharjah began about 8pm and flights were cleared to take off again at 9pm.
Dubai resident Orla Phillips, returning from Qatar on FlyDubai, said her plane was due to arrive at Dubai International at 8.10pm but was diverted to Dubai World Central.
People on the nearly full flight had to wait while officials made the decision to reroute the flight back to Dubai International or allow passengers to exit at DWC.
“They said it’s for security reasons that we can’t get off but it’s been almost two hours now,” said the 35-year-old, adding that a shuttle bus could have been provided to Dubai International.
As a result of the diversion, other passengers missed their connecting flights. Ms Phillips said that the crew expected to have information over the next 15 to 20 minutes but that all rerouted flights would need to go to Dubai International to refuel.
“I’ve been on flights before that have been diverted and I’ve sat for five hours on a runway in India, which is fine, there is nothing you can do about it.
“But when you’re in your home country and you’re stuck on a plane for over two hours because they won’t let you off, it’s extremely frustrating.”
Ms Phillips said the flight remained on the tarmac for nearly four hours, requiring a team of paramedics to come onboard after a passenger became ill.
It is not the first time a drone has closed Dubai airport, one of the busiest in the world. Last month it was shut down for half an hour because of “unauthorised drone activity”. That closure resulted in delays to 90 flights.
In June, the airport was closed to aircraft for more than an hour after a drone incursion.
Dubai International Airport is one of four drone no-fly zones set up by the General Civil Aviation Authority in April after an incident last year in which a drone caused a 55-minute shutdown estimated to have cost the emirate’s economy Dh3.7 million a minute.
The other no-fly zones are Al Maktoum Airport, Al Minhad airbase and the Palm Jumeirah around Skydive Dubai.
* This article has been amended for clarity