Emirates was granted a rare dispensation to land an A380 after the Sydney Airport curfew on Sunday evening because a passenger had become ill after boarding the flight in Dubai.
An Emirates spokeswoman said EK414 from Dubai landed at 11.13pm on Sunday after receiving dispensation from Australian authorities to land up to 15 minutes after the 11pm curfew.
The flight had been scheduled to land in Sydney at 10.30pm but departed Dubai around 90 minutes later than expected and appears to have made up as much time as possible in the air. It landed on the main north-south runway 34L, which implies an approach over water.
Infrastructure and Regional Services Minister Warren Truss or his delegate are the only authorities allowed to offer dispensation and it is only done in exceptional cases.
A spokesman for Mr Truss said EK414 received approval to arrive at Sydney no later than 11:20pm due to a delay caused by a sick passenger.
“The aircraft followed published noise abatement procedures to minimise the impacts on the Sydney community,” the spokesman said.
Emirates was last year charged with three alleged breaches of the curfew between 2011 and 2013 that could lead to a maximum fine of $550,000 per breach.
The charges against Emirates for curfew breaches were laid just before the federal election in September when Anthony Albanese was still the federal transport minister.
Emirates carries around 500 passengers on each A380. If it is not allowed to take off and land in Sydney during the restricted period when delays occur, it would face the cost of paying for hotel rooms for the passengers and the need to re-book them on other flights to Australia.
Dispensations at Sydney Airport only occur on rare occasions. Last year, just 20 requests were approved, of which six were for Virgin Australia on July 19 when its reservations system suffered an outage.
In the latest report to parliament tabled in December, one Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Sydney was granted dispensation to land at 11:02pm in December but a request from Qantas in November for a flight from Brisbane to Sydney was rejected.
The criteria for dispensations include how close the timing of the predicted landing is to the 11pm curfew, whether the take-off or landing is over water, whether the cause of the delay was within the operator’s control, the noise level of the aircraft, the number of passengers involved and the severity of the likely hardship.
Mr Truss has indicated a second airport in Sydney, likely to be built at Badgerys Creek, is unlikely to be constrained by a curfew. That would help make the airport more attractive to airlines.