Ouch: Emirates’ Longest A380 Flight Diverts… Twice

Ouch: Emirates’ Longest A380 Flight Diverts… Twice

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Passengers on Emirates flight EK216 from Los Angeles to Dubai are getting quite the world tour today, as they’re stopping in both Toronto and London. This is Emirates’ longest flight in the world to begin with (since the Dubai to Auckland route is suspended) — the flight ordinarily covers a distance of 8,339 miles, and is blocked at 15hr50min. On this particular flight, passengers will be onboard for well over 24 hours.

Emirates A380 diverts to Toronto

EK216 departed yesterday evening at around 5:20PM PT from Los Angeles, and began flying northeast, starting the polar route to Dubai. The flight was operated by an Airbus A380 with the registration code A6-EUU, which is a plane that’s just under five years old.

Over northeastern Canada, just past Hudson Bay, there was allegedly a medical emergency onboard, so the flight needed to divert. There aren’t many airports that far north in Canada that can accommodate an Airbus A380. The decision was made to divert to Toronto (YYZ), which is a major detour.

The flight ended up landing in Toronto at around 3:30AM local time, after a roughly seven hour flight. As a point of comparison, a direct flight between Los Angeles and Toronto would take just four hours, so we’re talking about a roughly three hour detour just to get to the diversion point.

EK216’s first diversion to Toronto

The plane was on the ground there for just over two hours, and took off again shortly before 6AM… but not to Dubai.

Emirates A380 then diverts to London

While Emirates’ A380 for an 8,000+ mile flight is very well staffed with four pilots and ~25 flight attendants, ultimately you don’t want them working for 20+ hours. At this point the crew didn’t have enough duty time left to fly all the way to Dubai.

Emirates’ operations team had to find a way to get passengers home, which admittedly is more complicated than ever before, especially with current border restrictions:

  • Emirates does fly 5x per week to Toronto, but Tuesday is one of the days without service
  • Not only that, but even if the flight did operate, it leaves at around 10PM, while the flight got to Toronto shortly after 3AM; presumably many passengers weren’t even able to enter Canada
  • That doesn’t even account for the fact that if there were a flight, it probably wouldn’t have had enough seats for all passengers

Instead the decision was made to operate a flight from Toronto to London. Why?

  • Emirates currently operates four daily flights to Dubai, three of which are operated by A380s
  • With several hours of advance notice, it’s much easier for Emirates to make sure that a crew is available to operate this flight

Currently the A380 is just past Newfoundland, and should be landing in London later this evening.

EK216’s second diversion to London

What happens when passengers get to London?

Emirates made the decision to cancel this evening’s EK4 from London to Dubai. The flight was scheduled to depart at 8:40PM, and arrive in Dubai at 9:35AM on Wednesday.

Instead the crew that was scheduled to operate EK4 will instead operate EK216, allowing for a crew change, and a seamless transition for passengers (well, as seamless as it can be while double diverting).

EK4 is becoming EK216

While some London to Dubai passengers will no doubt be inconvenienced by this, this ultimately seems to minimize the disruption for the most number of passengers.

Bottom line

Yesterday evening’s Emirates’ A380 flight from Los Angeles to Dubai is diverting twice. It first diverted to Toronto due to a medical emergency, which required a huge detour, and meant that first flight took about seven hours.

At that point the crew couldn’t fly all the way to Dubai without exceeding maximum duty hours, so the flight is currently enroute to London, where a fresh crew will take over.

Based on what I’ve seen, Emirates is handling this situation exceptionally well. Medical diversions are inconvenient for everyone, and particularly for the airline, but they’re the right thing to do. And it seems that Emirates has done as good of a job as possible with managing this situation, and thinking outside the box to find a way to get passengers to Dubai without having to deal with complicated travel restrictions.

What do you make of this Emirates double diversion? Are any OMAAT readers on this flight?

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  1. Gada

    Hope passengers got to count ALL of the ACTUAL FLIGHT miles from this trip - I think they deserved it, PLUS FC upgrades for future flights.

  2. Henry

    I was on this flight. Thankfully, the flight was less than half full so most of us got to lay down. We stayed on the plane in Toronto and they gave us food vouchers in London. I saw some of the old crew on the plane (in uniform) but didn't see them working the flight so I think they were just flying as passengers.

    Still, I missed my connecting flight and because it wasn't...

    I was on this flight. Thankfully, the flight was less than half full so most of us got to lay down. We stayed on the plane in Toronto and they gave us food vouchers in London. I saw some of the old crew on the plane (in uniform) but didn't see them working the flight so I think they were just flying as passengers.

    Still, I missed my connecting flight and because it wasn't booked through emirates, they didn't want to hear about it. I had to twist arms just to get them to help me call to rebbook, etc. No compensation of any sort for missed flight requing ticket repurchase or accommodation or food for the 16 hours I was stuck in Dubai. The way they treated us in Dubai was disgusting and their transit desk staff deserve to be fired.

  3. R J Curtis

    Why didn't they divert to Goose Bay or Thule. The runways there should have been long enough. Both are closer than YYZ.

  4. Rekha pai

    Nothing great about it. United Airlines handles it the same way.

  5. Eric TENTLO

    They shouldn't have divert to London again and canceled another flight. Couldn't they just have paid for the extra hours of the 25 crewmembers instead of having to compensate London customers for the last minute flight cancelation?

  6. Kishore kumar

    Medical emergencies occcur sometimes. I appreciate the priority given to the passenger by Emirates airline. Its this gesture shown by rhe airline in spite of all the difficulties arising out of unsheduled diversions, stopover, change of crew etc, which stands out. Hats off to Emirates Also a big salute to all the passengers who have borne with this delay patiently.

  7. anna ferrigno

    To the Person named Tenney who said he wouldn't have wanted to be in Coach in the situation! This Airline's Coach service is as good as business Class in any other Airline.

  8. anna ferrigno

    I love this Airline! Flew twice from JFK to Milan..I think they did the right thing! Their Crew is amazing

  9. Pradeep Trehan

    No Doubt
    Emirates has the best service but medical emergencies has priority.
    I am Emirates Flyer and I love the airline.

  10. Keith Burt

    As always this airline did its best to accommodate the passengers to get them to their destination.

  11. REUBEN Shaw

    If this was mechanical...you can be upset. If this was weather...well, you can be upset. However, it was medical and necessary to divert. Now, the rules for crew time on duty is for what? Oh, I get it ....saftey! Emirates did a fine job of using the clock to get crews ready to fly. Very good move to cancel a flight to push the other passengers forward to Dubai. I'm sure the canceled passengers are...

    If this was mechanical...you can be upset. If this was weather...well, you can be upset. However, it was medical and necessary to divert. Now, the rules for crew time on duty is for what? Oh, I get it ....saftey! Emirates did a fine job of using the clock to get crews ready to fly. Very good move to cancel a flight to push the other passengers forward to Dubai. I'm sure the canceled passengers are upset and rightfully so but if Emirates gives a perk on the flight or discounts the tkts, I think they will be on good ground.

  12. Reynaldo A Flores

    I would hate to be a passenger in Economy.

  13. Teney

    I was on this flight, and here's a bit more info:

    The passenger had a heart attack. Apparently, there was a doctor on board that was able to care for the patient until we landed in YYZ. The passenger left the plane stabilized and according to the crew, he/she survived. We did not deplane in YYZ, but spent a while on the ground.

    Before leaving YYZ, the pilot announced we would have to divert to...

    I was on this flight, and here's a bit more info:

    The passenger had a heart attack. Apparently, there was a doctor on board that was able to care for the patient until we landed in YYZ. The passenger left the plane stabilized and according to the crew, he/she survived. We did not deplane in YYZ, but spent a while on the ground.

    Before leaving YYZ, the pilot announced we would have to divert to LHR due to crew hours. When we landed in LHR the passengers were expecting to stay on the plane, but at the last minute EK announced that we would have to deplane. I was in F and there was a rush for the passengers to get changed out of their PJs. We had to go through immigration as if we were catching a connecting flight. Staff at LHR were clearly not prepared for this, as there was only one immigration officer there for our entire plane, so the line got quite long and moved slowly. We were on the ground for about two hours, but were able to use the EK lounge, which has great views of the tarmac.

    The icing on the cake was that once we had reboarded in LHR the captain made an announcement. Apparently, two passengers had passed through customs and were on British soil, and would not be able to get back on the flight. It was not clear if this was intentional or if they had mistakenly taken the wrong exit. We had another ~30 min delay to remove their bags from the plane. It was definitely a long day, but the Emirates staff handled the situation well. My final destination was DXB, so I'm not sure how EK handled connections.

  14. Jon

    Whatever we comment, divert here or divert there, the most important point the safety of all passengers safety is paramount and commend EK for this. Having been in the airline industry for many years the pilots know what they are doing and will not take risks and an A380 is not a small aircraft.we can all make comments but as mentioned all passengers arrived safely including the passenger needing medical attention. Well done Emirates ✔

  15. Elias John

    I have been been travelling on different airlines for the last 39 years. I hv been using Emirates very frequently for the last 22 years and i can say that they are the best to handle situations like this. I have witnessed many situations where Emirates always ensure passenger comfort and safety over economics or commercial factors. In case of technical issues, i have seen them sending additional aircrafts all the way to US, Japan,...

    I have been been travelling on different airlines for the last 39 years. I hv been using Emirates very frequently for the last 22 years and i can say that they are the best to handle situations like this. I have witnessed many situations where Emirates always ensure passenger comfort and safety over economics or commercial factors. In case of technical issues, i have seen them sending additional aircrafts all the way to US, Japan, Australia etc. Hats off to them and i personally prefer Emirates on longhaul sectors.

  16. Danny

    Looks to me like Quebec City and Montreal would both have been closer than Toronto, and both have excellent hospitals, but EK doesn’t have stations there. In my experience, airlines prefer to divert to an airport where they have a station and personnel to provide support.

    1. Crissey Coo

      As it says in the article, the airport cannot accommodate the double decker A380… If it’s Boeing then Emirates would have landed in the closest airport no matter what…

    2. REUBEN Shaw

      Exactly. Personnel is needed.

  17. Emily

    What's the condition of the patient?

  18. Stefan Treff

    Can it be more specified what a medical emergency usually is.Life-threatening.I had recently someone on the LAX-Dubai flight with 2 children.16 hours is already murder and i dont think too many people are thrilled for stopovers in Toronto and London,specially when you have a hotel reservation in Dubai and a connecting flight to Ethiopia the next day.

  19. Nasir Malkana

    I was flight attendant for 28 years
    That's the best possible decision that flight operations made to divert to Toronto to save a human life. This shows the value of human life.
    Secondly crew time limitation is true it is regulated by Emirates civilization under the umbrella of FAA that's the world boby. Over sees all airlines and respective civil aviation.
    Good decision Emirates!

    1. Ex EK

      FAA has jurisdiction over the US. That's it. Emirates come under GCAA, which has some commonalities with FAA, but also more with CAA of UK or European regulators.

      You might be thinking of IATA, which has oversight of many issues worldwide for the airline industry, but not all.

  20. Samuel R. Cruz

    Emirates is an Elite airlines that consist of international think tank personnel in it ,so it is very normal and very professional the airline execute this reliable procedures. I was before an ex Emirates engineering staff and now a FedEx SAMT retiree. Cheers mate !

  21. Andrew Taylor

    I had a similar medical emergency diversion in a BA 747 once from Vancouver to London. We too had to divert from over Hudson Bay to Toronto before onwards to London. Our 10.5h flight became 19h. A long day, the BA team were well practiced when we arrived at London. Planes had been held for forwarding passengers as much as possible and the remaining ones like myself who couldn't be accomodated given a hotel overnight....

    I had a similar medical emergency diversion in a BA 747 once from Vancouver to London. We too had to divert from over Hudson Bay to Toronto before onwards to London. Our 10.5h flight became 19h. A long day, the BA team were well practiced when we arrived at London. Planes had been held for forwarding passengers as much as possible and the remaining ones like myself who couldn't be accomodated given a hotel overnight. It was all dealt with very smoothly, showing it must happen reasonably often.

  22. Sam

    I think the genius move was going to London but also changing the schedules. So EK3 was changed earlier in the day from a PE varient A380 to a normal A380 and run EK6 which is usually a 777 instead of going back as EK4. The crew of EK4 running the E216 and heading to Dubai as scheduled. The flight coming in on the 777 will sit around I assume and go back with the original EK216 crew. Only a 777 out of position and crew out of position and everyone else is fine.

  23. Randy

    I was on the first Qantas A380 flight from LAX to MEL that diverted to HNL due to a similar medical issue, several years ago. This was first A380 to ever to land in HNL. We were past HNL - but had to dump fuel and fly an hour back. A couple of issues:

    1. HNL was not equipped with fuel hoses big enough to efficiently fill up an A380 gas tank - took a...

    I was on the first Qantas A380 flight from LAX to MEL that diverted to HNL due to a similar medical issue, several years ago. This was first A380 to ever to land in HNL. We were past HNL - but had to dump fuel and fly an hour back. A couple of issues:

    1. HNL was not equipped with fuel hoses big enough to efficiently fill up an A380 gas tank - took a couple of hours to refuel.

    2. No ground crew at HNL had ever seen an A380 - so they toured through the Aircraft at 3am - to the chagrin of the passengers. I was in F - other passengers were not too pleased with ground crew touring when people were in PJs, etc.

    On the ground for about 4 hours.
    Crew was going to fly to SYD but then in flight they diverted to BNE and we were put on 767 flight to SYD, destination with connection in MEL.

    But turns out they did not transfer luggage - so luggage delayed a day. At lease QF gives you a couple of hundred dollars for incidents.

    A380 diversions are big deal.

  24. PB

    I’m surprised that the sick passenger was well enough to justify the duration of the flight to Toronto. Since we don’t know of the severity of the emergency I surmise that it wasn’t critical.
    Toronto has some of the beast health care anywhere so, perhaps, the choice was to get the passenger to a critical care facility? But so has London. Prestwick. I can think of a few.
    If we had better information...

    I’m surprised that the sick passenger was well enough to justify the duration of the flight to Toronto. Since we don’t know of the severity of the emergency I surmise that it wasn’t critical.
    Toronto has some of the beast health care anywhere so, perhaps, the choice was to get the passenger to a critical care facility? But so has London. Prestwick. I can think of a few.
    If we had better information we could evaluate this but the Toronto choice seemed to not make sense?

    1. Ex EK

      It made sense to the captain, the purser and Medlink, who are the only ones who it needs to make sense to.

      It's not only the safety of the patient that comes into the equation, but the rest of the pax, the crew and ultimately the aircraft. If the choice of airport not only has the best medical support, but also company personnel to handle the aircraft and is familiar to the pilots, then it...

      It made sense to the captain, the purser and Medlink, who are the only ones who it needs to make sense to.

      It's not only the safety of the patient that comes into the equation, but the rest of the pax, the crew and ultimately the aircraft. If the choice of airport not only has the best medical support, but also company personnel to handle the aircraft and is familiar to the pilots, then it has most "ticks in the boxes", so to say.

      They *could* have gone to a closer airport, but would that then require a reduction in landing weight? Fuel dump? That equals additional time that they used anyway enroute to YYZ.

      Any A380 pilot in EK would be well familiar with YYZ, as it was a main and early port of operation for the whale.

  25. tuotuo

    A EK380?Even in business class this is a heaven flight.

  26. Tom

    At the point of diversion, London was not much further away than Toronto. I realise that in a medical emergency even 30 minutes can make a difference, but it seems such a shame to not carry on for the sake of the hundreds of other people affected.

    1. Ex EK

      If you divert, you're much better off going to the airport that's not over water. What if you get an engine out on the wau to your divert? Inop engine over land easier to manage and less restricted than engine out over sea

    2. red_robbo

      Quite right Tom. Such a shame. How selfish of the sick passenger to choose that moment to inconvenience the rest of them by causing an medical diversion.
      I'm sure the other passengers would have much preferred it if he only could have held out until they got all the way to Dubai.....

      Wow. Just wow.

  27. Mike C

    There would have been a lot of back-room work going on in Dubai, both with the aircraft and the passengers in London, with pax being rebooked wherever they could.

    I was on a QF JFK-LAX flight that was delayed four hours. It was continuing to Australia and connecting with two other QF flights at LAX. QF held one of the other two and released the second on time, having reshuffled pax between them. I was...

    There would have been a lot of back-room work going on in Dubai, both with the aircraft and the passengers in London, with pax being rebooked wherever they could.

    I was on a QF JFK-LAX flight that was delayed four hours. It was continuing to Australia and connecting with two other QF flights at LAX. QF held one of the other two and released the second on time, having reshuffled pax between them. I was supposed to be on the flight that was released, and before we landed in LAX the crew had told me my rebooked onward flights. Others I spoke to had been rebooked on partner airlines initially but ended up on one it the two QF flights.

    I'm sure EK would have been jumping through similar hoops, especially for their premium passengers from London.

  28. Bill Ward

    Did they dump fuel? I bet the YYZ diversion might also be related to having too much fuel on board to land.

    There are also not a lot of airports that can accept an A380 due to runway length and aircraft weight.

    Or maybe just that Toronto has the needed medical facilities for whatever the emergency was.

  29. Sam

    Just FYI, due to the COVID rules in England, the passengers won't be able to enter the terminal building so they are literally landing for a crew change then back in the air. Passengers need to have completed a PLF prior to arrival, with a booking of a COVID test needed to complete the PLF.

  30. derick bulkley

    How many extra miles and segments to their FF's get?

    1. Nick

      LAX-DXB is 8339 miles and LAX-YYZ-LHR-DXB is 9152. Actually less than I would have thought. But assuming new boarding passes weren't issued, I doubt they'll get anything.

  31. Earl330NEO

    YYZ was the best place to divert due to the runway and infrastructure available to handle an A380 most likely landing close to MLW. The right decision by thew Captain and EK dispatch. London was a genius move as they had another crew on standby to basically swap out and get underway in fairly

  32. Alex

    Yes, there was likely a lot of expense involved in getting the A380 down to YYZ and then canceling a flight with paying passengers, but EK was smart by diverting to LHR so that they had crew qualified to fly the A380. I'm sure passengers on the flight, particularly those in coach, were just thrilled to hear of the diversions. ULH routes are nice as long as things go as planned, and then the sky falls when they don't. Might be best to book over Europe instead.

  33. Alec

    Does the airlines insurance cover all the extra fuel costs when there's a big diversion like this for a medical emergency?

    1. NickM

      No, the airline would just write it off as a business expense. This kind of additional expense arises often enough for a big airline that it it wouldn't make sense for them to insure the risk--even if insurance was available to cover it.

  34. mario

    Ben, have you ever been on a flight that was diverted? With how much you fly, it seems very likely, but you've never written about it (or I've never seen an article about it), so maybe you've been... *Lucky*?

  35. Luke

    Seems like where the plane was at past the Hudson bay before turning south to Toronto for 3 hours, it could have continued east for 3 to 4 hours to instead reach London or maybe Iceland which would have greatly reduced the distance!

    1. Never In Doubt

      ikr, what does Emirates operations staff know?

      If only they could have consulted OMAAT commenter “Luke” before making their decisions!

    2. stogieguy7

      The cartography is a bit misleading there on the flight tracker; YYZ is still much closer to the point of diversion than Iceland or the UK are. Iceland would be another 4-5 hours, LHR even farther. True, they're more on the way, but this emergency may well have required the soonest landing spot possible for evacuation of the patient.

      Yes, I know it's a head shaker to read all this; knowing what the "emergency" was would help to add context.

    3. West Coast Flyer

      Both Iqaluit and Goose Bay could handle the A380 and were much closer from the diversion spot. But perhaps they were focusing on medical facilities (though Iqaluit does have a hospital).

    4. Cosmo

      Goose Bay can't (or at least couldn't) - the Air France A380 that had engine issues over Greenland a couple years ago diverted there, and while it could land, they didn't have any stairs that could reach the A380
      Iqualit is probably the same story - the A380 went there for cold weather testing in 2006 and 2007, but nothing passenger

    5. Weymar Osborne

      Looking at the flight map, it looks like they made their southward turn somewhere around Puvernituq (YPX). GCmap says that YPX-YYZ is 1136 miles, YPX-KEF is 1743, and YPX-LHR is quite a bit more at 2878. Both Reykjavik and especially London would certainly have taken longer to reach than Toronto. Others have pointed out that Iqaluit is both closer, can handle an A380, and has a hospital, although with uncertainties regarding crewing, ground handling, and...

      Looking at the flight map, it looks like they made their southward turn somewhere around Puvernituq (YPX). GCmap says that YPX-YYZ is 1136 miles, YPX-KEF is 1743, and YPX-LHR is quite a bit more at 2878. Both Reykjavik and especially London would certainly have taken longer to reach than Toronto. Others have pointed out that Iqaluit is both closer, can handle an A380, and has a hospital, although with uncertainties regarding crewing, ground handling, and potentially accomodating passengers the decision to divert to Toronto makes sense. If you ask me, diverting to Boston would have made a lot of sense given that it was only marginally further than Toronto and since it is in the same country as the departure point it would have seriously allieved any potential immigration and border restriction issues but I understand that the chaos of diverting an A380 and the thought that every second counts in a medical emergency Toronto may have still been the best option.

    6. Ex EK

      A380 is regular ops into YYZ, Boston is a 777. A380 guys will likely pick the A380 station unless they're burning, or converted over and gave experience into Boston

    7. Alex

      I think you missed that part when they said they had to go to an aiport that could handle an A380. Doubt Iceland has that.

  36. John

    If I was in economy I’d be like get me off the flight but if I was in first or business class that’s the best value you could get of any flight with miles!

    1. Dennis

      Actually, economy in an Emirates A380 is about as good as it gets!

Featured Comments Load all 54 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt

ikr, what does Emirates operations staff know? If only they could have consulted OMAAT commenter “Luke” before making their decisions!

Teney

I was on this flight, and here's a bit more info: The passenger had a heart attack. Apparently, there was a doctor on board that was able to care for the patient until we landed in YYZ. The passenger left the plane stabilized and according to the crew, he/she survived. We did not deplane in YYZ, but spent a while on the ground. Before leaving YYZ, the pilot announced we would have to divert to LHR due to crew hours. When we landed in LHR the passengers were expecting to stay on the plane, but at the last minute EK announced that we would have to deplane. I was in F and there was a rush for the passengers to get changed out of their PJs. We had to go through immigration as if we were catching a connecting flight. Staff at LHR were clearly not prepared for this, as there was only one immigration officer there for our entire plane, so the line got quite long and moved slowly. We were on the ground for about two hours, but were able to use the EK lounge, which has great views of the tarmac. The icing on the cake was that once we had reboarded in LHR the captain made an announcement. Apparently, two passengers had passed through customs and were on British soil, and would not be able to get back on the flight. It was not clear if this was intentional or if they had mistakenly taken the wrong exit. We had another ~30 min delay to remove their bags from the plane. It was definitely a long day, but the Emirates staff handled the situation well. My final destination was DXB, so I'm not sure how EK handled connections.

Andrew Taylor

I had a similar medical emergency diversion in a BA 747 once from Vancouver to London. We too had to divert from over Hudson Bay to Toronto before onwards to London. Our 10.5h flight became 19h. A long day, the BA team were well practiced when we arrived at London. Planes had been held for forwarding passengers as much as possible and the remaining ones like myself who couldn't be accomodated given a hotel overnight. It was all dealt with very smoothly, showing it must happen reasonably often.

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