Some Emirates US Flights Taking Up To 17 hours Due To Iran Tensions


In the wake of the tragedy of Ukraine International Airlines’ flight PS752, more and more airlines are avoiding Iranian airspace. Until recently, this didn’t include Middle Eastern carrier Emirates. However, the airline is now adding extra time and fuel stops to its U.S. services in order to avoid the tension.

Emirates, A6-EOE
Emirates has now incurred delays in order to avoid Iranian airspace. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

A new route diverting through Pakistan

Middle Eastern carrier Emirates now appears to be avoiding Iranian airspace, alongside other airlines across the world, in the interest of safety. Despite the growing tensions in Iran in the wake of flight PS752, Emirates had originally resumed normal routes to the United States through Iranian airspace. However, that has now changed.

The airline appears to be diverting through Pakistan and Afghanistan. Flights then enter Uzbekistan airspace at the southernmost point before continuing the normal polar route to the United States, according to One Mile At A Time. The purpose? To avoid flying over Iran.

Route from UAE to Los Angeles, avoiding Iran
This flight on 15th January 2020 avoided Iran on its way to Los Angeles. Photo: FlightRadar24

Emirates is not the only airline to take this approach. Carriers in the UK and the United States stopped flying across Iran almost immediately after the fatal crash. But why did it take Emirates that much longer to adopt this plan of action?

Lengthy routes and delays

Well, the decision to stop flying over Iran certainly won’t have been one that Emirates took lightly. In fact, it’s causing a lot of problems in terms of providing efficient direct flights and adequately staffing aircraft.

Emirates, A6-EOE
A6-EOE too nearly 17 hours to complete the polar route from Dubai to Los Angeles. Photo: Gforce800 via Wikimedia Commons

On 15th January 2020, for example, Emirates flight EK215 took an additional 56 minutes to complete its route from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Los Angeles (LAX). According to FlightRadar24, the service took a total of 16 hours and 54 minutes.


However, whilst this direct service was completed uninterrupted, such gargantuan jaunts require a good amount of planning and are not always feasible. That’s the reason that Emirates flight EK211 from Dubai International to Houston (IAH) stopped in Toronto on 13th January 2020.

The impromptu fuel stop was a result of taking extra precautions to avoid Iran, according to this source. After refueling in Toronto, the service continued to Houston with a total flight time of 16 hours 59 minutes, excluding stopping time. Since then, however, this particular route has not needed fuel stops, but there are still delays to the direct route of around one hour.

Emirates’ route between Dubai and Dallas has also necessitated stops for refueling, this time in Sweden. Although these fuel stops extenuate delays to passenger journeys, there’s also something else that Emirates needs to account for.

Emirates A380 aircraft at airport
Emirates needs to balance its passengers and crew to accommodate the new route changes. Photo: Emirates

Providing a smooth operation

According to a statement from Emirates obtained by Paddle Your Own Kanoo, the airline said:

“We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and are in close contact with the relevant government authorities with regards to our flight operations, and will make further operational changes if the need arises.”

That sounds as though there is no defined timeline for when Emirates will resume flying over Iranian airspace. As such, delays on polar routes to the United States are likely to continue.

One other reason for this is the correct management of staff. The longer routes mean that the crew requires additional rest time before they are able to complete the outbound return journey on these services. This scenario creates the unique predicament of balancing crew and passenger needs.

That said, heeding warnings and avoiding Iranian airspace is an appropriate response to the tension, no matter how logistically complex. We contacted Emirates for more information on this matter but it was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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