An Emirates executive has said recent flight disruptions relating to unauthorised drone activity at Dubai International have cost the airline millions of dirhams and called for authorities to do more.
In a media statement, Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ executive vice president and COO, said flight diversions and extensive holdings relating to drone activity are costly, inconvenience passengers and damage Emirates’ reputation.
“Sending an aircraft to an alternative airport and managing delays to arrivals or departures are not as straightforward as it sounds,” he said.
“There is always a ripple effect on the rest of our hub operations in terms of securing our passengers’ flight connections, ensuring our disrupted customers are cared for, planning the return of aircraft to support other scheduled flights, and a myriad other arrangements to manage the disruption from crew to catering to ground handling.”
Airspace around Dubai International has been closed in three separate incidents since June with the most recent taking place on Saturday evening.
This resulted in the diversion of 22 inbound flights including 11 operated by Emirates, the carrier confirmed with delays to each ranging from two to four hours.
Two later flights were also impact by the closure and had to be diverted while Dubai International worked to restore normal schedules, it said.
“In addition, other inbound flights were on hold due to airspace congestion and outbound flights were delayed to accommodate connecting passengers after the airspace re-opened. More than 5,000 Emirates passengers were inconvenienced on this occasion alone,” the statement read.
A previous incident in September resulted in delays to 85 Emirates flight departures and a cumulative delay of 57 hours, assuming an average of 40 minutes per flight, and affecting thousands of passengers.
An incident in June also saw 13 Emirates flights diverted.
“Ensuring safe flight operations by closing the airspace when there is unauthorised drone activity, or other airspace incursions, is the right thing to do,” said Al Redha.
“However, the safety risk from unauthorised drone activity, and the resulting disruption to customers and operations is unacceptable. We request the authorities to take strong measures and impose penalties to discourage future occurrences, and also consider implementing drone detectors at the airport.”
Dubai authorities have repeatedly said they plan to introduce new drone regulation, but the statement suggests the airline has become frustrated with the lack of progress.