‘Drone pilots costing airline millions’
Emirates calls for UAV detectors as airport incursions put lives at risk
Drone detectors and substantial fines are needed to combat persistent incidents in Dubai that are costing Emirates millions of dirhams in losses, the airline has said.
The carrier urged UAE authorities to take “strong measures” against drone users following Saturday’s shutdown of airspace over Dubai and Sharjah.
Adel Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Emirates, said 5,000 of its passengers were affected by the 80-minute closure and subsequent diversions to other airports.
His comments echo those of Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, who told radio station Dubai Eye 103.8 on Sunday that the drone threat must be addressed before “there is a disaster”. Griffiths also called for all UAV devices sold in the UAE to be installed with a chip that prevents them from flying close to an airport. Al Redha added yesterday: “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 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.”
The statement said the closures have “cost Emirates Airline millions of dirhams on each occasion and impact thousands of passengers”.
There have been three incidents involving the closure of airspace at DXB this year – in June, September and on Saturday.
Al Redha added: “Flight diversions and extensive holding are costly. Financial aspects aside, there is huge inconvenience to passengers, and also a negative impact on Emirates’ reputation.”
Emirates said the September airspace closure delayed 85 of its departures, “chalking up a cumulative delay of over 57 hours... affecting thousands of passengers travelling during the morning peak period”. Al Redha said the incidents have caused a significant “ripple effect” on operations, disrupting catering and crew arrangements along with the impact on passengers. Aviation consultant John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting, said large airlines like Emirates are hardest hit by such incidents. He said: “Emirates is offering a reliable connecting product and incidents like this throw transfers completely. People miss flights and then they get the disruption and costs of rebooking them, booking them into hotels. And when you’re running very high occupancy flights it’s very hard to cater for all of those passengers. The knock-on can go for days.”