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Emirates cuts flights to US, blaming Trump’s restrictions

The largest airline in the Middle East will reduce the number of its US-bound flights from Dubai to 101, from 126.Adam Scheck/Associated Press/File 2017

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, slashed its flights to the United States by 20 percent Wednesday, including to Boston, blaming a drop in demand on tougher US security measures and Trump administration attempts to ban travelers from some Muslim-majority nations.

The Dubai government-owned carrier’s decision was the strongest sign yet that new rules about US-bound travelers from the Mideast could be taking a financial toll on fast-growing Gulf carriers that have expanded rapidly in the United States.

The cuts will reduce the number of US-bound flights from Dubai to 101, from 126 currently.

Twice-daily Emirates flights to Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle will fall to once a day. Daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will be pared to five per week.


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 US-bound flights.

Emirates’ hub at Dubai International Airport, the world’s third-busiest, is also a major transit point for travelers who were affected by President Trump’s executive orders temporarily halting entry by citizens of six countries.

The latest travel ban suspended new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen and froze the US refugee program. Like an earlier ban that also included Iraqi citizens, it has been blocked from taking effect by the courts.

Emirates said the flight reductions will affect five of its 12 US destinations, with the first cutbacks starting next month.

‘‘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,’’ the carrier said in a statement.

Emirates does not provide financial data for its US operations or individual routes, but said it had seen ‘‘healthy growth and performance’’ until the start of the year. Since Trump took office Jan. 20, however, there has been ‘‘a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US routes, across all travel segments.’’


It said it was responding as ‘‘any profit-oriented enterprise would’’ and will use the capacity freed up by the culled routes elsewhere on its network.

The Americas region, which includes Canada and Latin America, accounted for 14 percent of the $22.75 billion in revenue Emirates pulled in during the fiscal year through the end of March 2016.

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant, said business travel between the United States and Middle East has clearly been hurt by the ban on gadgets, while the attempted visa bans have put a damper on leisure travel from the targeted countries.

‘‘Neither factor is a good thing for the Middle Eastern carriers who are primarily affected,’’ he said.

Andrew Lannon, a Canadian attorney based in Dubai, arrived in Fort Lauderdale for vacation on an Emirates flight Wednesday and said passengers had to check their electronics, which made the 18-hour flight difficult because he couldn’t work.

Passengers were told upon landing that they would have to wait on the plane for an hour while their bags were checked, but were then let off after 20 minutes, Lannon said, adding that it took another hour for most passengers to clear customs.

Kevin Mitchell, head of the Business Travel Coalition in the United States, said all of the Gulf carriers are probably losing business because of the security measures and attempted travel bans, and for consumers, “it means higher prices, fewer choices, less connectivity.’’


Like its smaller Gulf rivals Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Emirates has ramped up its US presence and recently launched a service to Newark via Athens.

Several big US carriers and their pilot unions have bristled at the Gulf airlines’ US push, accusing them of flooding the market with capacity while receiving billions of dollars of unfair government subsidies.

Emirates and its Gulf rivals deny the allegations.

Despite a lobbying and public relations campaign, the US carriers were unable to persuade the Obama administration to block further expansion by Gulf airlines. But US airline executives made a pitch to restrict their access during a White House meeting with Trump earlier this year.

The US travel industry, already fretting that the ban on travelers from Muslim-majority nations is affecting travel generally to the United States, expressed fresh concern after Emirates’ announcement, however.

‘‘The aftermath of 9/11 taught us that we can’t take either global understanding or US market share for granted,’’ said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president of the US Travel Association. ‘‘Every limiting security message needs to be offset by a sincere welcome to legitimate, lawful travelers.’’