An Emirates flight between Athens and New York was grounded on Thursday evening after Greek authorities were tipped off about a potential security threat, according to Greek media. The several-hour-long ordeal was concluded to be a false alarm shortly after landing, though not before catching the attention of social media.

Incident details

EK209, one of Emirates’ post-pandemic ‘freedom flights’ between Athens International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, was ordered to land two into its journey after Greek and US authorities raised concerns about a “suspicious passenger.”

The flight took off from Athens at around 17:30 EET and was flying over Italy when it received a grounding order, citing a required security check. Greek authorities have not released the exact details of the request.

France and Italy are reported to have barred the jet from landing in their airspace, leaving the Boeing 777 circling above Sardinia for around an hour before heading back to Athens.

According to CNN Greece, NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre scrambled two Hellenic Airforce F-16 fighter jets from Crete to escort the aircraft back to Athens. The plane noticeably avoided the Italian coast and Western Greece, following a sea-based route in line with ICAO procedure.

After landing safely back at the airport just after 22:00 EET, anti-terrorist police officers and airport security conducted security checks. Nothing suspicious was found, and passengers were subsequently re-accommodated onto other Emirates services.

Passenger Yiannis Spyridakis recounted the surreal ordeal to local media, explaining that passengers were initially unaware of the reasons for the diversion, though they quickly realized something was wrong after the carrier’s in-flight WiFi was cut off.

“There wasn’t much disturbance; it just started to have a strange atmosphere as we all wondered what was going on,” Spyridakis noted, adding that passengers remained concerned through the remainder of the journey, following the unusual flight path on the aircraft’s entertainment monitors.

False alarm

A second Emirates flight, EK210 from Athens to Dubai International Airport, was grounded before take-off following the alert.​​​​​​ Passengers were asked to disembark and return to the terminal with their luggage after being informed of a “technical problem.” Nothing suspicious was found, and the flight was allowed to continue to Dubai after a five-hour delay.

EK209, registered as A6-EQC, remained grounded at Athens airport overnight before returning to Dubai this evening.

The tip was later found to be a false alarm, with the intended suspect not onboard either flight.

“Emirates can confirm flight EK210 from Athens to Dubai on 10 November returned to stand before take-off, and flight EK209 from Athens to Newark on 10 November also made an unscheduled return to Athens, due to security checks requested by the authorities,” a spokesperson for the carrier told The Independent.

“Passengers on flight EK209 have been rebooked to travel on 11 November and provided overnight accommodation. Emirates apologises for the inconvenience caused.”

What are your thoughts on yesterday’s grounding? Did Emirates handle the situation well? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: CNN Greece, The Independent, To Vima (1) (2)

  • Emirates, Airbus A380, Penultimate


    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Dubai International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

    United Arab Emirates


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