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Emirates President Apologizes for Flight Disruptions Amidst Historic UAE Storms

Hundreds of flights out of Dubai were canceled and delayed last week due to a once-in-a-lifetime storm

by Fergus Cole

April 23, 2024

Photo: Storm in Dubai. Courtesy of Kent Tupas / Unsplash

Sir Tim Clark, President of Dubai-based Emirates, has written an open letter to its customers, issuing a heartfelt apology for the recent flight disruptions caused by the unprecedented storms that hit the United Arab Emirates last week.

On April 16, an unusually intense storm battered the UAE—including Dubai and nearby Abu Dhabi—resulting in around two years’ worth of rain falling on the Gulf State in just a few hours.

The record-breaking storm brought the heaviest rainfall to the UAE in 75 years, causing widespread flooding and subsequent chaos at Dubai International Airport (DXB)—the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passengers—leaving hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded.

Although DXB, the airline’s primary hub—managed to stay open throughout the historic storm and resultant flooding, the Gulf Carrier was faced with one of the largest operational challenges in its near-40-year history. While dozens of incoming flights were diverted from Dubai on Tuesday to avoid the worst of the weather, the airline’s issues were compounded by flooded roads surrounding the airports, which impeded the ability of passengers, pilots, cabin crew, and other airport staff, as well as essential supplies like in-flight meals, to reach the airport.

This logistical nightmare forced Emirates to cancel almost 400 flights over the next three days, while many more were delayed, with staffing and supply shortages persisting throughout the week.

Clark said that Emirates’ two main priorities during the disruptions were to ensure the safety and comfort of its affected passengers and to get its operations back on schedule as efficiently as possible.

Photo: Sir Tim Clar, Emirates CEO. Courtesy of Andreas Spaeth

However, to free up resources to provide the best care to stranded passengers, it had to temporarily suspend its check-in service for flights departing Dubai and impose a temporary ban on ticket sales.

Additional resources were then deployed to aid with rebooking and laying on additional flights to get affected passengers to their destinations.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Emirates employees volunteered to look after stranded passengers at the airport’s departure gates and transit areas, prioritizing care for medical cases, senior passengers, and other vulnerable passengers. Over 12,000 hotel rooms in Dubai and around 250,000 meal vouchers were also provided for stranded passengers, while essential amenities like water and blankets were also handed out.

According to Clark, Emirates’ regular flight schedules were restored as of Saturday morning, stranded passengers have been rebooked on flights to their intended destinations, and a task force has been put in place to return the 30,000 or so pieces of luggage to their respective owners. However, the backlog of affected passengers and baggage may take a few more days to clear.

The Airbus A380 is the airline’s workhorse / Photo: Courtesy of Emirates Airlines

“We know our response has been far from perfect,” said Clark in his open letter. “We acknowledge and understand the frustration of our customers due to the congestion, lack of information, and confusion in the terminals. We acknowledge that the long queues and wait times have been unacceptable.

“We take our commitment to our customers very seriously, and we have taken learnings from the last few days to make things right and improve our process.

“I’d also like to acknowledge and thank our teams across the airline and our many suppliers and partners for their tireless efforts around the clock this week, despite the challenging conditions, to support customers, recover our network, and bring our operating schedule back to normal.

“Finally, and once again, I want to offer, on behalf of myself and all the teams across Emirates, our apologies to each and every customer affected by this disruption.”

As of April 23, the airline reports that it has resumed its full flight schedule, providing customers access to its broad range of destinations. The airline is also actively working to ensure all misplaced and delayed luggage is quickly located and delivered to its rightful owners.