‘Drone pi­lots cost­ing air­line mil­lions’

Emi­rates calls for UAV de­tec­tors as air­port in­cur­sions put lives at risk

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Rory Reynolds @Ro­ryReynolds

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.”

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