Owing to flight path deviations being made on flights through the tension-filled Middle East, Iran in particular, Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) has been forced to make unplanned fuel stops on some of its longer US sectors, ch-aviation analysis of Flightradar24 ADS-B data has revealed. Despite these revised flight paths and technical stops, which have already been built into the airline's schedules, the UAE-based carrier has continued to serve Tehran Imam Khomeini daily.

The first Emirates flight to be impacted by the fuel stop was EK211 on January 13 from Dubai Int'l to Houston Intc'l, operated by an A380-800, as this landed in Toronto Pearson before continuing to its Texan destination. Presumably, this was deemed necessary on that day, as every flight since then has operated direct to the Texan city, however, the airline's flight plans seem to be changing regularly.

Before the recent troubles in the Middle East, this flight used to route straight over Iran, possibly over Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, before entering Russia airspace and then routing over the North Pole to Canada and the US. However, on January 19, flight EK211 routed via Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Greenland, Canada and then finally the US. The same flight on January 20 was, however, operated over Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, and then Eastern and Western Europe en route to Houston. Other routings have also been taken on other days.

On January 14 and 15, flight EK221 to Dallas/Fort Worth, flown by a B777-300(ER), stopped in Stockholm Arlanda en route to the US, and on January 20 its EK215 flight to Los Angeles Int'l, operated by an A380-800, had an extra stop in Copenhagen Kastrup.

The great circle distances to these three US destinations, as well as San Francisco, CA, which Emirates also flies to daily with an A380-800, are all very similar, meaning that all four could continue to suffer from these operational challenges as a result of not being able to fly over Iran:

  • Los Angeles, 7,246 nautical miles (13,420 kilometres);
  • Houston, 7,097 nautical miles (13,144 kilometres);
  • San Franciso, 7,041 nautical miles (13,041 kilometres);
  • Dallas, 6,987 nautical miles (12,940 kilometres).

The airline's other US routes, namely to Boston, Chicago O'Hare, New York JFK, New York Newark, Fort Lauderdale Int'l, Orlando Int'l and Seattle Tacoma Int'l are shorter than these four routes and have yet to see any additional fuel stops.

Despite these Iran overflight limitations for US-bound services, Emirates is still operating its daily EK971 service to Tehran, however, its EK977 and EK979 flights to the Iranian capital city have not operated since January 9 and 10 respectively. Also, Emirates' low-cost subsidiary flydubai (FZ, Dubai Int'l) is continuing to offer its Iranian services to Isfahan Int'l, Lar Larestan, Mashad, Shiraz and Tehran.

When asked to comment on the matter, an Emirates spokesperson said: “We are carefully monitoring the developments and are in close contact with the relevant government authorities with regards to our flight operations, and will make operational changes if required. As always, the safety of our passengers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority and will not be compromised."