From May, Emirates will reduce flights to five US cities as it adjusts to new US security rules affecting carriage of electronic devices in the cabin, and targeting travellers from the Middle East.
The BBC quoted the Dubai-based carrier saying that weaker demand for US travel was behind the move.
Under directions from President Donald Trump, the US Government is enforcing security measures which hit Mideast and Gulf carriers but not US carriers. The moves prohibit passengers on nonstop US-bound flights from certain international airports in the Middle East and North Africa from bringing laptops, iPads, DVD players, electronic games or cameras aboard in cabin baggage.
Passengers have to check in any device bigger than a smartphone. The ban affects nine airlines, including Emirates and Etihad. It applies to nonstop flights to the US from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The 10 airports are: Cairo, Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The nine airlines that operate direct flights to the US from those airports are Egyptair, Emirates, Etihad, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
Additionally, Trump has also signed two executive orders to bar refugees and nationals of several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa from travelling to the US. Although those bans have been contested in court, they hit Emirates’ passenger base.
An Emirates spokeswoman said: “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.
“Over the past three months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US routes, across all travel segments,” she told the BBC.
Emirates president Tim Clark said in March that demand to the US had fallen by about a third since Trump’s proclamations.
The airline has tried to help its passengers as much as possible in the face of the laptop ban. See: Emirates introduces laptop and tablet handling service for US flights
Emirates now says it will cut back direct flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to five a week in May from the present daily frequency.
The airline will also cut back its twice-daily flights to Seattle and Boston in June to one a day, with a similar frequency for Los Angeles from July.
Etihad, however, is making no changes.
A spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said that Etihad had experienced “no significant change in demand on flights to and from the United States in recent weeks”.
“Demand continues to remain strong on all 45 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and its six US gateways of New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas,” the spokesperson said.
“Effective 1 June, Etihad Airways’ second daily Abu Dhabi-New York service will be upgraded to an A380, making its twice-daily flights on the route an all superjumbo operation. This demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the US market regardless of recent developments.”
Written by Peter Needham