An OMAAT reader (who asked to remain anonymous) shares an unpleasant Emirates experience that happened a couple of days ago on a flight departing Tokyo…
In this post:
Emirates A380 flight canceled due to Narita Airport curfew
Emirates flight EK319 is scheduled to depart Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) at 10:30PM and arrive at Dubai International Airport (DXB) at 5:30AM the following morning. While flying the Emirates Airbus A380 is usually a treat, that wasn’t the case for the nearly 500 passengers booked on this flight on Friday, December 23, 2022.
This incident came about due to a minor maintenance issue, which ended up causing much bigger issues due to the airport’s curfew. So, what happened? According to the reader:
- The plane pushed back at 10:35PM, though within a few minutes the plane stopped, the lights were turned off, and there were no updates
- At 10:45PM the plane returned to the gate without any announcement
- At 11PM the captain explained there was a technical issue that needed to be resolved; there was reportedly a strong burning smell on the lower deck
- At 11:45PM the captain announced the issue was resolved, so the plane pushed back and started to taxi to the runway; the plane taxied for around 10 minutes, but stopped at 11:55PM
- Shortly after 12AM, the plane turned around; the captain announced that the runway was closed for maintenance and that they’d have to return to the gate, while the announcement in Japanese (correctly) reflected that the air traffic controllers refused takeoff due to the airport’s curfew
- At 12:30AM the captain announced that management was trying to find a solution, but that they’d start a meal service onboard; there was no further communication from the crew for nearly two hours
- At 2:25AM the crew announced that all passengers were to deplane; the upper deck was allowed to deplane first, followed by the lower deck
So at this point you have nearly 500 passengers in the Narita Airport terminal in the middle of the night. What happens next? Well…
Emirates’ terrible handling of this situation
When passengers were told to enter the terminal, they were expecting to be given hotel vouchers. They were instead handed sleeping bags and bottles of water, and told that the flight was rescheduled for 3PM that day, around 16.5 hours behind schedule.
At this point a few passengers (including the OMAAT reader) allegedly confronted the Emirates station manager, who claimed to have been unable to find rooms for everyone. He insisted that everyone must stay in the airport and that it’s not possible to leave. His tone changed after the CEO of a major Japanese company (who was on the flight) threatened legal action.
Finally by 3AM, the three people who had approached the manager were told that they could leave (of all the passengers, only a total of six were allegedly allowed to leave the airport). By 3:15AM, the reader was through exit immigration, with a “did not depart” stamp in his passport. There was a single taxi at Narita Airport at this point, so the three of them split that taxi, and fortunately they all lived in the same neighborhood.
Based on social media posts, it would appear that hundreds of people ended up having to sleep in the terminal in sleeping bags.
When the reader returned to the airport, the queues were allegedly ridiculous, and people were still asleep everywhere. He was told to go to the lounge instead. The lounge looked like it had been looted, and there wasn’t even bottled water anymore.
The flight finally ended up departing at around 4PM, and then arrived in Dubai after 10PM, around 16.5 hours behind schedule.
This situation was horribly handled
While airlines operate pretty reliably when you consider how complex operations are, sometimes things go wrong. That’s especially true if you have an airport with a curfew, and a flight that is only scheduled to depart a short time before it — any minor technical issue can lead to an overnight delay.
Airlines have a duty of care for passengers, especially when the delay is within the carrier’s control (which is what a maintenance delay is). We don’t know exactly to what lengths Emirates went to find accommodations for passengers. Presumably there were collectively 500 hotel rooms available somewhere, though maybe not near the airport, and maybe only in smaller blocks.
Regardless, giving passengers sleeping bags and telling them to fend for themselves, and not giving them the option to leave the airport, is unreasonable. Of the 500 passengers, I imagine a good number of them had a place to stay in Japan (presumably many were from the Tokyo area), yet it’s believed that only a total of six passengers were allowed to leave the airport, and that was based on pressuring the station manager.
I don’t envy the job of airline employees in the case of irregular operations, but an airline should be able to do better than this…
An Emirates Airbus A380 from Tokyo to Dubai was delayed by over 16 hours, after a minor maintenance issue causes the flight to miss Narita Airport’s curfew. Rather than finding hotels for passengers, the airline instead gave passengers sleeping bags, and told them to camp out in the terminal for the remainder of the night and most of the day. That’s not a great showing on Emirates’ part…
What do you make of this Emirates delay at Tokyo Narita Airport?