Emirates Cuts U.S. Service Amid Drop in Traffic

 - April 19, 2017, 11:58 AM
Emirates plans to severely curtail U.S. service with its Airbus A380s. (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates Airline plans to cut services to five of its 12 U.S. destinations from Dubai in reaction to declines in traffic since the attempts by U.S. President Donald Trump to ban citizens from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the country. A more recent ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of airplanes flying into the U.S. from eight Middle Eastern and North African countries has accelerated the declines.

In a statement issued to media outlets Wednesday, Emirates confirmed the cuts would start in less than two weeks. Specifically, plans call for the airline’s Fort Lauderdale and Orlando operations to decline from daily service to five times a week, starting May 1 and May 23, respectively. Starting June 1 and June 2, Seattle and Boston operations will move from twice-daily operations to a single flight a day. Finally, on July 1, Emirates will also cut Los Angeles service from twice a day to once a day.

"This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to U.S.,” it said. “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 moves follow a recent warning from Airports Council International of competitive distortions the electronics ban, adopted also by the UK, would produce. Notably, the organization called for “urgent consideration” for alternative solutions, including additional explosive detection capability at boarding gates and/or “state of the art” technology for cabin baggage screening.

“Airports, along with industry partners and governments, put security as a top priority and understand the need to implement measures rapidly when a heightened threat level is identified,” said ACI. “However, information sharing and coordination on security measures among governments and with the industry is also crucial to ensure effective security. In particular, inconsistency in the application of security measures does not lead to security effectiveness and may result in simply moving the threat to other locations rather than addressing it. In the present case, it also leads to passenger confusion and results in commercial distortions not just for airlines but also for airports.”

The airports covered by the U.S. ban, located in eight majority-Muslim countries, include Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport and Hamad International Airport in Doha, the respective bases of Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, all of whom have come under fire from U.S. airlines and various lobbying groups for receiving what they consider unfair government support. The others involve Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Kuwait International Airport and Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca.

Several airlines have taken steps to lessen the effect of the electronics ban on passengers, including offering services to check their devices at the gate. Emirates, for one, offers to collect them at the gate and place them into a secure box in the airplane’s cargo hold. The free service allows passengers to keep their laptop computers and other devices with them until they board their flights. However, Emirates still encourages passengers to pack their electronic devices into their check-in luggage “in the first instance” to avoid delays.