Travellers flying with Emirates to Auckland on Friday had a long trip to nowhere when the aircraft they were travelling on turned back to Dubai after seven hours in the air.
Flight number EK448 from Dubai to Auckland departed the UAE at around 10.30am on Friday, setting off on the airline’s longest commercial route — a 14,200km journey to New Zealand’s largest city.
With a total flying time of more than 16 hours, passengers were nearly halfway through the journey, flying near Malaysia, when the jet U-turned, according to data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
The aircraft was unable to continue to its destination as Auckland Airport announced it was closing because of major flooding.
Passengers landed back in Dubai again after more than 13 hours in the air, according to data aviation analytics company Cirium.
The rescheduled flight departed Dubai for the second time on Sunday, operating as flight number EK8448. It departed Dubai just after 11am and is expected to arrive in New Zealand at 11.20am on Monday.
Other Emirates flights have been affected by New Zealand’s severe weather. Emirates flight EK448 was delayed for more than five hours on Saturday.
Flight EK448, which was due to depart Dubai for Auckland on Sunday, was cancelled and passengers set to connect on the service from other destinations were not accepted for travel at their original points of departure.
Emirates has advised customers affected due to cancellations to contact their travel agents or Emirates call centres for rebooking options. The airline said flights from Auckland to Dubai on Sunday and Monday were unaffected and “planned to operate according to schedule”.
Some Emirates passengers have taken to social media to express concern over the airline’s rebooking process.
More than one Twitter user tweeted that the earliest flights being offered for rebooking are not until February 7, more than a week from Sunday.
Thousands of travellers were stranded at Auckland Airport on Saturday night after severe weather and flooding.
More than 1,000 passengers are waiting inside the international terminal of the airport and authorities and volunteers handed out more than 1,000 meals, 500 blankets and hundreds of bottles of water and fruit to travellers overnight.
Travellers were advised that international flight schedules will take some time to normalise and asked passengers to be patient.
“For people travelling internationally, we want to let them know that some airport processes may take longer than normal as we restart international travel, so we just ask for travellers’ patience and understanding as we gradually get back up to speed.
“With the disruption to flight schedules, it may also take airlines several days to rebook passengers. Anyone travelling in the next few days who has questions about the impact to their travel plans should talk to their airline or travel agent. Rest assured, we’re all working together as an airport community to get everyone where they need to be over the coming days.”
On Sunday morning, a Jetstar flight to Sydney was the first international passenger flight to depart Auckland Airport since its temporary closure.
An Air New Zealand flight from Los Angeles with 355 passengers on board was the first to arrive since the airport reopened, landing in Auckland just after 7am on Sunday.