Emirates Schedules Massive Flight Reductions In 2019 Due To Runway Maintenance

Filed Under: Emirates

In February of this year, Dubai International Airport (DXB) announced that they would be reducing runway operations from two runways to a single runway, for a 45 day period starting in mid April 2019. This is in order to conduct critical maintenance work on the southern runway, including resurfacing and replacing ground lighting. As Dubai recently took over the title of the world’s busiest dual runway airport (from London Heathrow), you can imagine how this will affect flight frequencies.

You may remember that DXB reduced operations to one runway for 80 days back in 2014. Emirates reported that it lost $467 million because of this.

Dubai Airport, no doubt in very close consultation with Emirates, has chosen the April/May period as it is one of the quieter times of the year, outside of both the Northern Summer and the Christmas/New Year periods. They also provided more than 12 months notice, which allows airlines operating flight to and from Dubai to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Paul Griffith, the Dubai Airports CEO explains:

In the months ahead we will be working closely with Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, airlines and other stakeholders to ensure we optimise service and capacity during this period next year and minimise the impact on our customers. While we regret any inconvenience this may cause to our airline customers and our passengers, these upgrades are absolutely necessary to heighten safety, boost capacity and pave the way for future growth.

Obviously Emirates is by far the biggest operator at Dubai International, so has the biggest headache to resolve with their schedules. Emirates has today published their initial schedule reductions from April 16 through May 30, 2019, and wow, it’s a HUGE list.

There’s no easy way to post every route affected here, so I’d recommend following this link to check if your flight is affected.

I counted that 113 routes are reduced, which is most of the approximately 150 destinations they serve worldwide.

The reductions are only for this six week period, and are split between flight numbers being cancelled for the period (i.e. a certain flight number will not operate for that period, so frequency may reduce from twice daily to only once daily, for example), and other routes where frequencies are reduced, so a daily flight may be reduced to four weekly.

As an example, Emirates currently flies to 11 destinations in the US:

And more than half of these routes will be affected:

  • Dubai – Boston: reduces from 7 to 6 weekly
  • Dubai – Chicago O’Hare: reduces from 7 to 6 weekly
  • Dubai – Dallas/Ft. Worth: reduces from 7 to 6 weekly
  • Dubai – Ft. Lauderdale: reduces from 5 to 3 weekly
  • Dubai – New York JFK: reduces from 14 to 12 weekly, EK203/204 affected
  • Dubai – Orlando: reduces from 5 to 4 weekly
  • Dubai – Washington Dulles: reduces from 7 to 6 weekly

While the US West Coast remains unscathed.

Emirates (and others) can use the new (and expanding) Dubai World Central Airport during this period, however Emirates has advised that they do not plan to move any operations to Dubai World Central for several years.

Bottom line

Given these schedule alterations are being made almost a year in advance I would not expect a huge number of passengers to be affected yet, especially as this is a slower travel time. That being said there may be plenty of frequent flyers affected as they may have booked premium award seats on Emirates as soon as the schedule opened.

Emirates has been quite fair in spreading out their reductions – the US actually does quite well with only seven out of eleven routes affected – for example (almost) all Australian routes are affected and even Emirates’ prized London Heathrow route drops from 42 to 31 flights per week.

If you are booked on any Emirates flight during this period, do check your booking as you will be re-accommodated on another Emirates service on the same route. I can’t see any routes suspended completely, only reduced.

Is anyone booked on an Emirates flight next April or May?

  1. James, the reductions are from April 16th not May 16th. And Melbourne is the only Australian route not affected by the changes. EK confirmed that to AusBT earlier today.

    Will Emirates ever move to DWC? I think they’d want to have DXB exclusively to themselves (and FlyDubai).

  2. DWC is not capable of handling any significant passenger volume. They learned this the hard way when DXB was shut following the accident in August 2016 and they wound up with dozens of A380 diversions. There were delays of 8+ hours to disembark and process passengers at DWC, eventually resulting in diversions being sent as far afield as Muscat and Kuwait as even second tier A380 diversion airports such as Fujairah and Al Ain filled up. The infrastructure simply doesn’t exist at DWC to handle any reasonable passenger volume.

    Cargo on the other hand is reasonably efficient at DWC (although operating costs are horrendously expensive compared to other UAE airports).

  3. shame for emirates this seems like a huge loss for them… hopefully things will be better with more runways at Al Maktoum (if/when they move)

  4. Small typo should say 2019, not 2018

    “Emirates has today published their initial schedule reductions from April 16 through May 30, 2018, and wow, it’s a HUGE list.”

  5. Lost focus when seeing something massive? Not selling your legal credentials with that, matey. Sounds more like a resident Club80 member to be honest.

  6. I was booking to come back next May to Muscat and noticed that there was only one flight. When I did 31st I saw the remaining flights available. So it was because of this. Thanks for the info James.

  7. you forgot Newark:
    Dubai – Newark Nonstop sector cancelled, EK223/224 closed for booking (Dubai – Athens – Newark maintains 1 daily)

  8. I think it doubtful this will cause Emirates significant losses. Most people will just book a different Emirates flight – it is not an alliance so passengers choosing Emirates are fairly inelastic, particularly with Etihad scaling down. Obviously there will be some loss of custom but presumably a lot of pilots and air crew will be told to take annual leave at that time which will reduce the number they need to bring in from Etihad. If they have any sense, they will also schedule as much maintenance, deep cleans and refits as possible.

    It’s easy to see the swings and forget the roundabouts.

  9. Why don’t they fly out of DWC (Al Makhtoum) for the duration? Or even AUH?

    PS It’s a “huge list” only because they are rotating the cuts over many destinations. The actual number of flights cut per day is small.

  10. Just to clarify, I meant why don’t they fly A FEW flights out of DWC or AUH? Not their whole schedule.

  11. @ Chuck Lester – I’m guessing its because they don’t consider the facilities at DWC to be up to the Emirates standard, so would rather reduce flights than reduce the passenger experience.

  12. @Traveler
    Ofcourse they’re going to make losses. Many planes will be parked and parked planes don’t earn cash. The companies that do retrofits aren’t simply going to hire 3times the workforce they need for a period of 6wks just so they can retrofit/do maintaince or EK planes.

    @Chuck Lester
    Most EK passengers are connecting from one flight to the next and not alot of O&D traffic. The hassle of landing some flights at DXB and having to transport passengers to DWC to connect to their next flights is clearly not worth it.

  13. Seeing as Ramadan is predicted to be May 5th to June 4th in 2019 this is a win win for emirates and Dubai airports authority… I take it the “pilot shortage” from this year will be over by then 😉

  14. I have two flights booked at this time. They still appear as active when I check on the emirates website. Also the person on Emirates live chat checked and she could see no problems. I am concerned as I need to fly at this time and have booked the flights as First Class Qantas Frequent Flyer redemptions and feel I may not get offered an alternative based on previous experience when flights have been canceled by. Does anyone have any experience of what Emirates does in this situation. Will I be offered a new First Class flight, downgraded or just dumped ?

  15. @Paul: I think the only problem you may have is a delay in your flight.
    Emirates already changed the schedule on their flights.

  16. Our flight next late April between DXB to MRU is affected, we are on reward booking on F, and the other flight of the same route on the same day do not offer F (reduced from 2x a day to once a day). Does that means we will be rebook as J on the other flight? Our reservation still show no change. Or will they use the plane that offer F that got canceled on the other route?

  17. Doesn’t EK have some A380s down at the moment? Couldn’t they use them to fill in some of the lost frequency with capacity?

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