The flight, with 521 passengers on board, touched down shortly after 9am local time (11pm AEST) on Wednesday and was immediately surrounded by dozens of ambulances and other emergency vehicles as anxious passengers waited to be evaluated by health officials.
As many as 100 passengers and crew complained of feeling sick during the 14-hour overnight flight, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement. The people on board were greeted by dozens of ambulances and other emergency vehicles, with medical staff ready to assess the situation.
Rap artist Vanilla Ice was onboard Flight 203 and tweeted: “So I just landed from Dubai and now there is like tons of ambulances and fire trucks and police all over the place.”
The sick passengers were evaluated by the CDC health officials as the Airbus A380 – the largest commercial aircraft – was taken to the far side of the terminal and quarantined. Those who were sick were taken to the nearby hospitals as a row of ambulances were present at the airport to receive the ill.
Eventually, the airline and the New York mayor’s office said a total of 19 people were confirmed ill. Three passengers and seven crew members went to the hospital, Dubai-based Emirates said.
“Nine passengers underwent additional medical screening at the site near the aircraft and were released afterwards,” said an Emirates spokeswoman.
“The rest of the passengers were allowed to leave and clear customs.”
New York City health officials said they obtained respiratory samples from the patients and their symptoms look like influenza. They said they won’t know for sure until they get final results.
All of the patients were listed in stable condition. Dubai-based Emirates said in a statement that 10 people “were taken ill” on the flight from the Middle Eastern country and were transported to nearby Jamaica Hospital in Queens “as a precaution”.