Wall Street Journal
By Asa Fitch and Robert Wall
April 19, 2017
Emirates Airline, the world’s biggest carrier by international traffic, is cutting flights to five U.S. cities after actions by the Trump administration slowed bookings from Middle Eastern countries.
The Dubai-based carrier’s action is the clearest sign of the impact of President Donald Trump’s efforts to curtail immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and limit the use of electronics on flights.
“Over the past three months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our U.S. routes, across travel segments,” the airline said. “Emirates has therefore responded as any profit-oriented enterprise would and we will redeploy capacity to serve demand on other routes on our global network.
Citing terrorism threats, the U.S. banned passengers in March from carrying large electronic devices, including laptops and tablets, in cabins on flights from several Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates.
The reduction in flights is due to take effect in May, Emirates told its business partners Wednesday in a notice seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Even before the electronics ban, Emirates had to contend with executive orders from Mr. Trump that blocked the entry of nationals from several Muslim-majority countries. Those orders were blocked by U.S. courts.
“The recent actions taken by the U.S. 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 U.S.,” the company said.
Emirates and its nearest rivals have grown quickly by funneling traffic via their Middle Eastern hubs between Asia and the U.S. and Europe. The electronics ban and visa restrictions have hit them hard because they link passengers to destinations that don’t have direct trans-Atlantic flights.
Emirates’ flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are set to move from daily to five times a week in May. In early June, the airline plans to reduce flights to Seattle and Boston to once a day from twice a day and it will make a similar reduction to flights to Los Angeles in July.
The company said it would continue to serve its 12 destinations and hoped to reinstate and grow U.S. operations as soon as possible.
These challenges add to woes at Emirates and other Middle Eastern carriers. They have faced a slowdown in sales due to a slump in oil and gas prices that has depressed premium bookings.
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