Passengers onboard a packed Emirates Airbus A380 have had to endure a 14-hour flight to nowhere after their flight to New Zealand was forced to turn back midflight when Auckland Airport suspended all operations due to flood water that deluged the terminal buildings, as well as the runway and taxiways.
Emirates flight EK448 departed Dubai at just before 11:00 am on Friday but at nearly the halfway point into the 15-and-a-half-hour flight to Auckland, the pilots of the doubledeck superjumbo made the difficult decision to turn around and head straight back to Dubai.
Severe weather and heavy rains caused extensive damage across Auckland on Friday and the flood waters hit the city’s airport particularly badly. Images shared on social media showed passengers wading through knee-deep floodwater inside the terminal building after the airport was inundated with rain.
Already reeling from extensive delays caused by an earlier accident when an aircraft damaged some of the runway lights, Auckland Airport was then forced to completely suspend all departures and arrivals due to the flood.
A spokesperson for the airport said the check-in and arrivals areas of the international terminal had been worst affected by the floodwater and warned passengers that operations wouldn’t be able to restart until midday on Saturday at the earliest.
Air New Zealand urged passengers not to attempt to travel to Auckland Airport, while the flag carrier’s own ultra-long-haul flights scheduled to arrive in Auckland were instead diverted to Christchurch.
For the passengers on EK448, a diversion to Christchurch wasn’t an option and instead, the aircraft was forced to turn around and head back to the United Arab Emirates.
The airline said a decision was taken to return to Dubai in order “wait for weather conditions to improve”. An Emirates spokesperson said the airline had “apologised for any inconvenience caused” by the epic flight to nowhere.
Passengers onboard American Airlines flight AA35 from Dallas Fort Worth to Auckland also endured a 10-hour flight to nowhere after their flight also turned around midflight and returned to the United States.
American Airlines has scrubbed the flight and now doesn’t anticipate passengers to arrive in Auckland until January 29.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.