Dubai International Airport has returned to full capacity after an Emirates plane carrying 300 people, including 226 Indians, crash-landed and exploded on the runway, causing hundreds of flight cancellations for 72 hours even as authorities probed the cause of the accident. “Dubai Airports confirms that it has lifted all remaining capacity restrictions at DXB (Dubai International) and the airport is back to normal operations,” the operator said in a statement.
One of the world’s busiest airport and the Middle East’s busiest had operated with restricted capacity since 12:45 PM on Wednesday after an Emirates Boeing 777-300 aircraft caught fire on the runway shortly after landing. 282 passengers and 18 crew members had a miraculous escape when flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai made a crash-landing.
The airport was then closed for several hours that day and then operated with only one of its two runways for 29 hours until Thursday evening. “The ability to prioritise large aircraft has enabled a return to regular scheduled activity sooner than anticipated,” Dubai Airports said. Over 500 flights were cancelled and hundreds of flights were delayed due to the incident, affecting thousands of passengers. At least 19,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday, according to Dubai Airports, and over 23,000 Emirates passengers were affected by Thursday midday, the airline had said then.
Dubai Airports yesterday said it would “continue to work with our airline partners and stakeholders in order to ensure” remaining affected passengers could reach their destination “as soon as possible”. At least 21 airlines cancelled 109 flights yesterday to and from cities in China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, according to the Dubai Airports website.
Those flight disruptions mainly impacted foreign carriers operating out of Terminal 1. Flydubai, the airport’s second biggest operator after Emirates, cancelled flights to Arbil and Basra. On Thursday, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said the investigators had recovered the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. An investigation led by the United Arab Emirates’ federal aviation authority, GCAA, is underway to determine what caused the 13-year-old Emirates jet to crash land.
Passengers described scenes at the airport on Thursday, the day after the incident, as “chaotic” telling Gulf News they had to transfer to Abu Dhabi International to catch their flights. All 300 escaped the aircraft before it was destroyed by the fire on the edge of the airport’s second runway. There were 13 injuries and one death, a firefighter tackling the blaze.
Emirates chairman and chief executive Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said Wednesday the Emirati and Australian pilots may have attempted to abort the landing due to wind shear, which is a sudden change in direction. Data released from flight tracking website flightradar24 appears to support this theory, Gulf News reported.