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Nearly 200 flights cancelled at Dubai International

Second runway reopened Thursday for the first time since Emirates EK521 caught fire

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
At least 28 airlines cancelled 183 flights and dozens of other services faced lengthy delays in the third consecutive day of disruptions at the Dubai airport.

DUBAI: Disruptions continued for a third day at Dubai International on Friday with nearly 200 flights cancelled and dozens more delayed as the Middle East’s busiest airport recovers after an Emirates Boeing 777 went up in flames there this week.

At least 28 airlines cancelled 183 flights to and from cities in Australia, India, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, the website of operator Dubai Airports showed on Friday. Dozens of other flights were delayed. Most of the cancellations and delays affected Terminal 1, which is mainly used by foreign airlines, according to the website.

Dubai International has been operating at reduced capacity since Wednesday when Emirates flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram in India was destroyed by fire on the runway after making an emergency landing. 

The airport was closed for several hours to all flights on Wednesday and the runway where the Emirates flight had landed reopened on Thursday evening - 29 hours after the incident. 

Emirates, the largest operator at the airport, has said more than 23,000 of its passengers have been affected by the disruption, and on Friday it cancelled flights from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Nice, Perth, and Taipei.

Emirates told Gulf News it would resume all scheduled operations on Friday night.

Flydubai, the second biggest operator at Dubai International, has cancelled at least 78 flights since Wednesday, including six services to and from Doha, Kuwait, and Muscat on Friday. Indian budget carrier IndiGo said Friday it would operate eight services to and from Dubai that day after earlier saying it would just operate one return Delhi-Dubai service.

Airlines using larger aircraft have been given preference to operate since Wednesday evening as the airport works to clear the thousands of passengers affected by the cancellations and delays. At least 19,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday, Dubai Airports has said. 

The airport expects to return to full operations on Saturday for the first time since the incident.

The runway was able to reopen after the retrieval of the Boeing 777's cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorders by investigators from the United Arab Emirates federal aviation authority, GCAA, allowed for the aircraft to be moved from the site, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said Thursday. 

The runway was lightly damaged in the incident, he said.

It is still unclear what caused flight EK521 to catch fire. Emirates chairman and chief executive Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said on Wednesday the pilots may have tried to abort the landing due to wind shear, a sudden change in direction.

Data of the flight's descent released by flight tracking website flightradar24 appears to back up that claim. The data shows that the aircraft suddenly increased its speed as it came into land.

Immediately after the incident, the GCAA said the aircraft had made an “emergency landing". Emirates said its aircraft was involved in an “incident,” an “accident” and then later an “operational incident”.

All 300 people onboard EK521 escaped the aircraft. There were 13 injuries and one death, a firefighter tackling the blaze