Emirates response to Dubai airport flooding ‘far from perfect’, boss admits

A taskforce has been established to sort and deliver around 30,000 bags back to their owners after record storms and flooding caused chaos at Dubai airport.

Almost 400 Emirates flights were cancelled and many more delayed over four days of disruption from last Tuesday.

Dubai airport announced on Friday that the number of inbound flights was being limited for 48 hours due to the ongoing disruption, “and to assist the effectiveness of recovery”, while departures would continue to operate.

In an open letter on Saturday, the airline’s president issued an apology but admitted that it will take more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers.

Sir Tim Clark said: “We know our response has been far from perfect. 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 processes.”

He pointed out that the UAE suffered from the highest rainfall in 75 years last Tuesday with “lashing storm winds and rain” disrupting activity across cities in the region. 

This created one of the toughest operational weeks for Emirates.

“Our 24/7 hub in Dubai remained open, with flight movements reduced for safety, but flooded roads impeded the ability of our customers, pilots, cabin crew, and airport employees to reach the airport, and also the movement of essential supplies like meals and other flight amenities,“ Sir Tim recounted. 

“We diverted dozens of flights to avoid the worst of the weather on Tuesday, and over the next three days we had to cancel nearly 400 flights and delay many more, as our hub operations remained challenged by staffing and supply shortages.

“We were clear on our two priorities: Look after our customers who have been impacted by the disruption, and get our operations back on schedule.

“To free up resources and capacity to manage impacted customers as a priority, we had to suspend check-in for passengers departing Dubai, implement an embargo on ticket sales, and temporarily halt connecting passenger traffic from points across our network coming into Dubai.

“We deployed additional resources to aid our airport and contact centre teams with rebooking and put on additional flights to destinations where we identified large numbers of displaced customers.

“We sent over 100 employee volunteers to look after disrupted customers at Dubai airport departures and in the transit area, prioritising medical cases, the elderly and other vulnerable travellers.”

More than 12,000 hotel rooms were secured to accommodate disrupted travellers in Dubai, 250,000 meal vouchers issued, alongside more quantities of drinking water, blankets and other amenities.

“Behind the scenes, it was all hands-on deck for thousands more employees across the organisation to get our operations back on track,” Sir Tim added.

“As of this morning, Saturday 20 April, our regular flight schedules have been restored. Passengers previously stranded in the airport transit area have been rebooked and are en-route to their destinations.

“We have put together a taskforce to sort, reconcile, and deliver some 30,000 pieces of left-behind baggage to their owners.

“It will take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags, and we ask for our customers’ patience and understanding.

“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.”

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