Emirates Flight EK448 has departed from Dubai a little earlier than 11:00 am last Friday, but almost halfway to Auckland — and this is 15 and a half hours of flying — pilots of the double-deck Superjumbo made the difficult decision to turn around and head straight back to Dubai.
Severe weather and heavy rains caused significant damage throughout Auckland on Friday, with flood waters hitting the city's airport particularly hard. Pictures shared on social media show passengers wading through knee-deep flood water inside the terminal building after the airport was flooded with rain. The terminal building, runway and taxiways were all underwater.
Auckland Airport, already suffering from significant delays caused by a previous accident where a plane damaged the landing lights at the end of the runway, was forced to completely suspend all departures and arrivals due to the revelry of the elements.
An airport spokesman said the international terminal's check-in and arrivals areas were the hardest hit by flooding and warned passengers that operations would not resume any time soon.
Air New Zealand urged customers not to attempt to reach Auckland Airport while while the flag carrier's own ultra-long-haul flights scheduled to arrive in Auckland were instead diverted to Christchurch.
For passengers on Dubai flight EK448, changing to Christchurch was not an option and instead the aircraft turned around and headed back to United United Arab Emirates.
The airline said it had decided to return to Dubai to “wait for weather conditions to improve”. An Emirates spokesman said the airline has “apologised for all the inconvenience” caused by the epic flight to nowhere.
Passengers on American Airlines Flight AA35 from Dallas to Fort Worth to Auckland also survived a 10-hour flight to nowhere after their plane made a similar mid-flight maneuver and returned to the US.