DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest airline, said on Wednesday it is cutting flights to the United States because of a drop in demand caused by tougher U.S. security measures and Trump administration attempts to ban travelers from Muslim-majority nations.
The decision by the Dubai government-owned carrier is the strongest sign yet that the new measures imposed on U.S.-bound travelers from the Mideast are taking a financial toll on fast-growing Gulf carriers that have expanded rapidly in the United States.
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 U.S.-bound flights.
Emirates’ hub at Dubai International Airport, the world’s third busiest, is a major transit point for travelers 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 reductions will affect five of its 12 U.S. destinations, starting next month. It called the move “a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand” in the three months since Trump took office.
“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 carrier said in a statement.
Emirates did not provide financial data for its U.S. operations but said it had seen “healthy growth and performance” there until the start of the year.
In the three months Trump has been in office, however, there has been what it called “a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our U.S. routes, across all travel segments.”
“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,” it said.
The cuts will reduce the number of U.S.-bound flights from Dubai to 101, down from 126 currently.
Twice daily Emirates flights to Boston, Los Angles and Seattle will be reduced to once a day. Daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will be pared down to five per week.
Like its smaller Gulf rivals Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Emirates has ramped up its U.S. presence in recent years and recently launched a new service to Newark via Athens.
Several big U.S. carriers have bristled at the Gulf airlines’ U.S. push, accusing them of flooding the market with capacity while receiving billions of dollars of unfair government subsidies. The Gulf airlines deny the allegations.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines both stopped flying to Dubai last year, leaving Emirates the only carrier to offer direct U.S. flights to what has become the world’s busiest airport for international traffic.
ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press