On Wednesday, Emirates announced plans to reduce service to the US amid fallout from the Trump administration's more restrictive travel policies.
The Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based airline says it will cut down on the number of flights to five of the 12 cities it serves in the US.
Starting May 1, flights to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will be reduced from daily flights to five flights a week. The airline says it will make the same cuts to its Orlando, Florida, service starting May 23.
Starting June 1 and 2, Seattle and Boston service will be reduced to a single daily flight from two previously. Finally, beginning July 1, Emirates' twice-daily service to Los Angeles will be cut down to a single flight.
"This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to US," an airline representative told Business Insider. "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."
Emirates said it had been experiencing steady US growth in the years before President Donald Trump took office but had seen a "significant deterioration" of bookings for US flights over the past three months. This fall in demand occurred concurrent with the Trump administration's travel restrictions covering several majority-Muslim countries (but not the United Arab Emirates), stricter visa regulations, and a carry-on laptop ban on some flights from the Middle East and North Africa.
This should come as welcome news for America's three legacy carriers. Since 2015, American, Delta, and United Airlines (the US3) have been complaining about competition from the three Middle East-based rivals — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways (the ME3).
According to the US3, the ME3's growth has been supported by their respective governments and fueled by as much as $50 billion in subsidies over the past decade, allowing them to flood the international market and threaten the job security of US aviation workers. They also say the ME3 are in violation of the Open Skies agreements that govern air travel between the US and 120 nations including the UAE and Qatar.
These allegations were the focal point of a rally held in March by United Airlines, its employees, and members of Congress in protest of Emirates' new daily service between Newark Liberty International Airport and Athens, Greece.
In reference to the US3, Emirates called today's decision a response "any profit-oriented enterprise" would make. Abu Dhabi, UAE-based Etihad told Business Insider on Wednesday that it has no plans to reduce service to the US.
Beyond the US3, there are signs that the period of unfettered growth on the part of the ME3 is nearing its end. The Gulf carriers boast the largest fleet of wide-body, long-haul airliners in the world. However, some industry observers are concerned that the ME3 have more capacity on hand than viable destinations with sufficient demand to support its flights.
Here's Emirates' statement in its entirety:
"Emirates can confirm that we will be reducing flights to five of the 12 US cities we currently serve. From 1 May and 23 May respectively, our Fort Lauderdale and Orlando operations will move from daily services to five a week. From 1 and 2 June respectively, our Seattle and Boston operations will move from twice-daily services, to a daily service. From 1 July, our operations to Los Angeles will move from twice-daily to a daily service.
"This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to US. 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.
"Until the start of 2017, Emirates' operations in the US have seen healthy growth and performance, driven by customer demand for our high quality product and our international flight connections. However, over the past 3 months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US 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.
"We will closely monitor the situation with the view to reinstate and grow our US flight operations as soon as viable. Emirates is committed to our US operations and will continue to serve our 12 American gateways — New York JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando — with 101 flight departures per week, connecting these cities to Dubai and our global network of over 150 cities."
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