x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

12,000 passengers hit by flight diversions in Dubai Airport

Take our poll: More than 12,000 passengers experienced delays in their travels plans yesterday as the Dubai Airport was forced to shut down due to a power failure triggered by thick fog.

Dubai Airport was forced to shut both runways yesterday after thick fog rolled in.
Dubai Airport was forced to shut both runways yesterday after thick fog rolled in.

DUBAI // Fifty flights were diverted and more than 12,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted yesterday when Dubai Airport was closed for two hours by a power failure in thick fog.

More than 100 passengers on one flight from Hyderabad waited for five hours on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi after their plane was diverted there.

The Emirates flight was scheduled to arrive in Dubai at 6.20am, but finally touched down at 2.15pm after a fresh crew came aboard to fly the 30-minute hop from Abu Dhabi.

"I'm very tired and we were crossing our fingers hoping to finally reach Dubai," said Phani Kumar, an architect visiting from India.

"People were exhausted and sleepy and we stopped counting the number of hours we'd been in Abu Dhabi.

"Some people were pretty furious but everyone stayed calm. They wanted to know why they couldn't get out at Abu Dhabi."

Mr Kumar said he would have preferred more communication.

"All people wanted to know was how long it would take. But we were told they were waiting for updates and would let us know when they knew. What can you do? You take things as they come."

Emirates said it regretted any inconvenience and the safety of its passengers and crew was paramount, but declined to comment on the delay at Abu Dhabi.

Travel agents, however, said that while UAE residents with valid visas could have disembarked in Abu Dhabi, the time needed to trace luggage and sort varied requests might have influenced the decision to keep all the passengers on board and fly on to Dubai with a fresh crew.

"But normally passengers are placed in a secure holding area in an airport and are put back on a plane when it's ready. Making passengers sit on board for five hours is very unusual."

Meanwhile, dozens of flights were delayed by several hours as authorities struggled to cope with the backlog likely to be resolved by early today. Others were diverted to airports including Dammam, Muscat, Bahrain, Doha, Al Ain and Dubai World Central

The two runways at Dubai International airport were closed at 6.45am yesterday and operations were restored at 8.30am.

"The closures was caused by the loss of power to a critical runway backup system required during foggy conditions. As further flight delays are anticipated as a result of the disruption, passengers are advised to check with their airline or airline websites for further information on flight arrival and departure time," an airport spokesman said.

While the main power supply was not affected, airport authorities halted flights as a precaution.

"The fog in itself was not the problem, it was the trouble with the back up system that made us decide to close the runways for safety reasons," said a spokesman.

"We expect a knock-on effect for the remainder of the day."

The airport's instrument landing system is CAT III B, the most advanced in use and operational in visibility as low as 50 metres. The cause of the power failure has not yet been established.

Relatives waiting outside the airport described confusion inside. "My daughter was sent to three different gates," said Vincent Patrele about a Qatar Airways flight to London.

"She still is confused about when she will leave."

Others said they were glad to be home. "It's an unusual circumstance," said Mohammed Yusuf, a businessman who reached Dubai from Bahrain after a three-hour delay on an Emirates flight.

"I spent time at the airport with my business partner and barely noticed the time go by."

rtalwar@thenational.ae