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Emirates counts cost of drone activity in Dubai

Numerous unauthorised drone incursions in the vicinity of Dubai International Airport are costing Emirates Airline millions of dirhams, reports Phil Blizzard in the United Arab Emirates.

Flight diversions and network disruptions due to these activities in airspace around Dubai International airport impact thousands of passengers each year reveals Adel Al Redha, Emirates chief operations officer.

He told Breaking Travel News: “Flight diversions and extensive holding are costly.

“Financial aspects aside, there is huge inconvenience to passengers, and also a negative impact on Emirates’ reputation.

“Sending an aircraft to an alternative airport and managing delays to arrivals or departures are not as straightforward as it sounds.

“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.”

There have been three separate incidents since June this year involving the closure of airspace at DXB due to authorised drone activity.

At the end of October Dubai International airport was closed for 80 minutes, resulting in the diversion of 22 inbound flights, including 11 operated by Emirates airline.

The affected Emirates flights diverted to other airports in the UAE, and these aircraft later returned to DXB with delays ranging from two to four hours.

The knock-on effect of the airspace closure impacted two later Emirates flights, which also had to be diverted while the world’s busiest international airport worked to restore normal schedules.

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.

Other incidents took place in September and June, with the first of these two resulting in DXB being shut down for half an hour because of unauthorised drone activity, resulting in delays to 85 Emirates flight departures, chalking up a cumulative delay of over 57 hours (or an average delay of 40 minutes per flight), affecting thousands of passengers travelling during the morning peak period.

While in June, the airport closure to aircraft was longer - for more than an hour also because of a drone incursion, resulting in numerous flight delays and diversions, including 13 flight diversions for Emirates alone.

Al Redha added: “Safety is always the number one priority in our business. Ensuring safe flight operations by closing the airspace when there is unauthorised drone activity, or other airspace incursions, is the right thing to do.

“However, the safety risk from unauthorized 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.”