Abu Dhabi airport technical failure halts flights

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dozens of flights to the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi were diverted Thursday after a technical malfunction during heavy fog led authorities to stop accepting incoming planes, according to the airport and its main airline.

Etihad Airways, the state-backed carrier that is the UAE's national airline, said all morning flights were redirected because of a "technical failure of the runway landing systems." The airport authority cited only operational challenges posed by low visibility conditions.

The malfunction happened as dense fog descended over much of the country, snarling traffic during the morning commute. The airport in nearby Dubai, the region's busiest air hub, reported delays but remained operational.

Abu Dhabi airport said 37 flights were diverted to several regional airports, some as far away as Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and Muscat, Oman.

Flight operations resumed later in the day, though Etihad said "significant delays" were expected to continue for some time.

Etihad, the main user of Abu Dhabi airport, and its larger competitors Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates are growing rapidly and use their Gulf bases as major long-haul aviation transit hubs.

Abu Dhabi International Airport is undergoing a major expansion that includes the construction of a new terminal complex.

Morning fog is not uncommon along the UAE's Gulf coast during certain times of the year. In 2012, some 50 flights were diverted from Dubai International Airport after a backup system needed to deal with heavy fog failed.

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