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Emirates Airline Cuts Flights To U.S., Citing Trump's Security Rules

By Jason Slotkin | NPR
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Emirates Airline says it is reducing its number of U.S.-bound flights because security restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have weakened demand in Middle East countries.

The Dubai-based carrier will pare back flights to five of the 12 U.S. cities it serves. Flights to Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles will be reduced from twice to once daily, and in Florida, daily service to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale will shrink to five flights a week.

Overall, it's a reduction of 25 flights per week for the airline, according to The Associated Press.

"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," Emirates said in a statement announcing the decision.

Last month, the Trump administration announced that passengers on direct flights to the U.S. from eight majority-Muslim countries — Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — must now place electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and cameras in checked baggage.

Those restrictions came on the heels of President Trump's controversial executive orders in January and early March seeking to temporarily halt travel from several other mostly Muslim nations. Both orders were halted by the courts.

The Dubai International Airport in the UAE, which is Emirates' hub, is a major transit point for nationals of countries listed in Trump's travel bans, The Associated Press reports.

The news service says the airline's decision 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."

In its statement, Emirates said it had seen "significant deterioration" in its U.S. bookings since January but did not offer specific numbers.

The carrier's remarks about reduced demand echo observations in the months following Trump's initial travel ban. As NPR's David Schaper reported:

"[Tourism company] NYC & Company is revising its forecasts this year, projecting that 300,000 fewer international travelers will visit New York. ...

"And the downturn in international travel to the U.S. is not just affecting New York. Philadelphia's tourism agency says one international meeting that draws some 3,000 attendees is now going to Canada or to Mexico.

"ForwardKeys, a company that tracks travel, reports that international travel bookings to the U.S. were down 6.5 percent in February. And the Global Business Travel Association says in just the first week following the president's January 27 travel ban, the U.S. lost nearly $200 million in business travel bookings."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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