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Emirates Cuts Flights, Cites Travel Restrictions. Will Other Airlines?

Emirates has announced it will reduce service between Dubai and almost half its destinations in the U.S. Flights to Boston, Seattle, and Los Angeles will be reduced from two per day to one, and daily flights to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale will be reduced to five per week each. The total number of weekly flights cut comes to 25.

Normally, an airline cutting a few flights isn’t newsworthy. But Emirates specifically cited travel restrictions recently implemented by the Trump administration as the reason for these cuts.

In a statement, the airline 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 “recent actions” in question require travelers to check electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, and cameras when traveling from ten Middle Eastern cities: Cairo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Doha, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Jeddah, and Riyadh. The ban only applies to specific airlines: Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.

Travelers can still bring their mobile phones on board with them, and U.S. airlines are not affected.

Regardless of the politics of this change, its implications will directly affect travelers. Emirates is one of the premier carriers in the world and regularly tops ‘Best Airline’ lists. If more airlines follow Emirates’ lead, that obviously means a substantial loss in service to the Middle East. Turkish Airlines, for example, frequently offers affordable fares to Europe that connect through Istanbul. If the carrier felt compelled to reduce service between U.S. destinations and Istanbul, travelers could lose a budget-friendly option for travel to Europe.

And while it’s only one carrier cutting two dozen flights from the U.S. to a single destination, there are other signs that the restrictions are having a negative impact. New York City is expecting 300,000 fewer international travelers this year than initially forecasted. Other cities and tourism boards report similar decreases in international travel, leading to hundreds of millions in lost tourism revenue.

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