Dubai International runway closures: Emirates details plan to cut 5,400 flights

The airline says the 80-day maintenance period will not impact passengers in the UAE or elsewhere who have booked journeys as plans are in place to cope with the reduction of flights.

Mohammed Mattar, Emirates Airport Services divisional vice president, announces logistic plans for the upcoming upgrades to Dubai International Airport’s two runways on 28 April, 2014.  Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // More than 5,000 flights – 2,700 outbound and 2,700 inbound – to 41 destinations will be cut from Emirates Airline's schedule between May 1 and July 20 when upgrades to Dubai International Airport's two runways begins.

The carrier, however, said the 80-day maintenance period will not impact passengers in the UAE or elsewhere who have booked journeys as plans are in place to cope with the flight reductions.

“Passengers who have booked to fly between May and July will not be affected,” Mohammed Mattar, Emirates Airport Services divisional senior vice president, said at the airline’s Dubai headquarters.

“The schedules have been planned long ago. Instead of, say, five flights a day between Dubai and London or Dubai and Bombay, we may have cut it down to four flights a day and passengers would have been able to book only on those available flights.

“There will be no stopping of flights on any route. We will serve all 140 destinations as usual. The intended cancelled flights were not put on the timetable from the beginning.”

Emirates will ground 20 aircraft in May and 22 in June. The partial closure will cost the airline Dh1 billion.

On some routes where frequency was being reduced, bigger aircraft will be used to carry more passengers.

Passenger flights on other airlines are also being reduced and all freight, charter and general aviation flights are being diverted to Dubai World Central (DWC) airport.

The southern runway will be closed throughout May, while the northern runway will be out of commission from May 31 to July 20.

Emirates said its own flights would be diverted to DWC and other UAE airports, or even to GCC airports if the one functional runway was forced to close.

“We have contingency plans and will work closely with our neighbouring airports if there is any emergency,” Mr Mattar said. “We have already spoken to authorities in the different airports.”

If fog or any emergency disrupted operations, airline staff will help divert flights or transport passengers by road to nearby airports.

Emirates Airline said it would strictly enforce its check-in and boarding times during this period.

“The check-in counter will be closed one hour exactly before departure and passengers have to be at the boarding gate 20 minutes or more before departure,” Mr Mattar said. “We used to allow exceptions but we will be more strict now.”

The runway-rehabilitation project will involve the placement of 180,000 tonnes of asphalt on the northern runway, 65,000 tonnes of asphalt and 70,000 cubic metres of concrete on the southern runway and taxiways, as well as the installation of 3,000 runway lights.

"We have focused our efforts over the past few months to ensure smooth operations during this period and minimising any inconvenience to our passengers while in the long run boosting safety, service and capacity levels at the airport," Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.

Last month, the airport recorded 32,849 aircraft movements, up 3.6 per cent from March last year. More than 6 million passengers passed through the airport last month, up 7.5 per cent year-on-year.

Indian subcontinent passengers recorded the highest growth with 112,953 visitors in March, followed by 75,283 from western Europe.