The Dubai government-owned carrier’s decision is the strongest sign yet that new measures imposed on US-bound travellers from the Mideast could be taking a financial toll on fast-growing Gulf carriers that have expanded rapidly in the US.
Dubai was one of 10 cities in Muslim-majority countries affected by a ban on laptops and other personal electronics in carry-on luggage aboard US-bound flights.
Emirates’ hub at Dubai International Airport, the world’s third-busiest, is also a major transit point for travellers who were affected by President Donald Trump’s executive orders temporarily halting entry to citizens of six countries.
The latest travel ban suspended new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and froze the nation’s refugee program. Like an earlier ban that also included Iraqi citizens, it has been blocked from taking effect by the courts.
Emirates said the flight reductions will affect five of its 12 US destinations, with the first cutbacks starting next month.
“The recent actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US,” the carrier said in a statement.
Emirates does not provide financial data for its US operations or individual routes, but said it had seen “healthy growth and performance” there until the start of the year.
Since Trump has been in office, however, there has been what it called “a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US routes, across all travel segments”.
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant in Port Washington, New York, said business travel between the US and the Middle East has clearly been hurt by the ban on gadgets, while the attempted visa bans have put a damper on leisure travel from the countries targeted.
“Neither factor is a good thing for the Middle Eastern carriers who are primarily affected,” he said.
The US travel industry, already fretting that the ban on travellers from a number of Muslim-majority nations is affecting foreign travel generally to the United States, expressed fresh concern after Emirates’ announcement.
“The aftermath of 9/11 taught us that we can’t take either global understanding or US market share for granted,” said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president the US Travel Association. “Every limiting security message needs to be offset by a sincere welcome to legitimate, lawful travellers.”
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