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Dubai flood: Travellers can’t reach airport as hub diverts flights; Abu Dhabi also warns of delays

Dubai has been hit with the heaviest rainfall in decades, and the deluge has impacted access and operations at Dubai International Airport.

Dubai has been hit with the heaviest rainfall in decades, and the deluge has impacted access and operations at Dubai International Airport.

The major Middle Eastern hub is among the busiest in the world, but on Tuesday, reports emerged of flooded aprons while social media showed footage of planes taxiing through floodwaters. 

Many travellers can’t even reach the airport.

“Due to road blockages and flooding, we’re experiencing a high volume of guests unable to reach #DXB for their departing flights,” the airport said in a Facebook post, updated this morning (AEST).

“We’re working continuously to restore normal operations, and have also arranged refreshments for guests currently at the airport, where possible.

“Remember to check your flight status with your airline before making the journey to #DXB, and allow significant extra travel time to the airport.”

On Tuesday night (local time), a Dubai Airports spokesperson said the hub had been forced to divert many inbound flights, though departing services were operating as usual.

“Dubai Airports can confirm that due to the continued exceptional weather event currently being experienced in the UAE, Dubai International (DXB) is temporarily diverting inbound flights due to arrive this evening on Tuesday, 16 April until the inclement situation improves. Departures will continue to operate,” they stated.

“The airport is working hard with its response teams and service partners to restore normal operations and minimise inconvenience to our customers. 

“We urge guests to check directly with the airline to obtain the latest information on the status of their flight, allow significant extra travel time to the airport and use the Dubai Metro where possible.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, the airport said flights had been “significantly disrupted”, with the hub forced to suspend operations for nearly half an hour.

“A total of 21 outbound and 24 inbound flights have been cancelled since 00:02hrs this morning, and three flights were diverted to other neighbouring airports,” a spokesperson said in the afternoon.

Disruptions are expected to continue into Wednesday.

“There is major flooding on access roads around Dubai leading to the airport and current weather forecasts indicate that the unsettled weather will continue to cause delays and disruption into the early hours of Wednesday (17 April) morning,” the spokesperson added. 

Emirates Airbus A380.
Emirates’ A380

The airport’s largest operator, Emirates, has confirmed its flights have been affected. 

“Due to adverse weather conditions, multiple flights to and from @DXB are experiencing delays or disruptions,” it wrote on X.

“We are working hard to get all affected passengers to their final destination safely, and will provide updates as soon as possible.”

Beyond Dubai

According to The Washington Post, Dubai was hit by the equivalent of about two years’ worth of rain just on Tuesday. But nearby regions have also been struck by inclement weather – like the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi.

“Due to a change in weather conditions including heavy rainfall over the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, we would like to inform you of the possibility of some flights delayed,” Abu Dhabi Airport said on social media on Tuesday evening.

“So we advise passengers to check the airlines they fly through for up-to-date information on their flight and allow enough time to get to the airport.”

Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi International Airport

The New York Times reports that the deluge was the largest rainfall event to hit the UAE in 75 years.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Oman, the Associated Press reports that a separate rain event killed at least 18 people.

Earlier this year, Dubai’s Department of Economy & Tourism (DET) announced the Emirate had attracted 17.15 million international overnight visitors in 2023 to record its highest-ever tourism performance, smashing both 2022 figures and pre-pandemic visitation levels.