United, Delta and American Gain a Big Political Win: Emirates Cutting Back Flights to U.S.

A month ago I wrote that the ban on laptops on flights from the Mideast had the effect of giving the largest U.S. airlines what they’ve been asking for: a limit on flights to the U.S. by Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar meaning:

  • Less choice for consumers and higher prices
  • Fewer tourists
  • Reduced demand for Boeing aircraft
  • Fewer passengers connecting on JetBlue and Alaska Airlines

All of this to the benefit of Delta, United, and American which are collectively already the most profitable airlines in the world, calling for protectionism for a mature industry with record high levels of employment.

Now Emirates has announced significant cuts to their U.S. schedule reducing service to 5 destinations.

“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 is eliminating 25 flights a week to the U.S.:

  • Fort Lauderdale drops from daily service to 5 times weekly effective May 1.
  • Orlando drops from daily service to 5 times weekly effective May 23
  • Seattle goes from 2 flights a day down to 1 effective June 1
  • Boston goes from 2 flights a day down to 1 effective June 2
  • Emirates is killing its second Los Angeles flight in July (it had already been suspended for May and June)

This is a 20% cut in number of flights operated by Emirates to the U.S.

Ironically the response by Emirates to reduced bookings that result from U.S. policy undermines the key arguments United, Delta, and American were making against it — that their decisions didn’t correspond to the business environment they faced. That was already clearly false, but now it’s been proven clearly to consumers. (If you have future bookings on Emirates you may need to make some adjustments.)

The electronics ban — which has been interpreted to cover noise cancelling headphones and even electric toothbrushes — does absolutely nothing for security.

Terrorists Can Circumvent the Laptop Ban by Flying Dubai – Baku – New York JFK instead of Emirates non-stop.. or simply by flying from Lagos, Nigeria on Delta, copyright: nordroden / 123RF Stock Photo

It may be genuinely motivated as a misguided policy, rather than as a giveaway to United, Delta, and American. But it serves to give them exactly what they’ve been after at the expense of their customers but couldn’t get on the merits.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. ugh. though interestingly, i took my noise cancelling headphones on my RJ flight last week from AMM-JFK without any problems. my headphones even have a blue light to indicate when its on, but nobody said anything.

  2. What a mess!
    US flyers will miss out on the superior services and products of Emirates.
    This will suit the mediocrity that represents air travel products by the big US companies who want to spend less, innovate little (i.e. Stagnate) and charge more.
    I guess the American people deserve better but they don’t seem to want it or to be seen to fight for it. Sad

  3. You wonder – to call the Trump ban”s bluff like you outline – to Emerates and other have to connect thru a Europe hub en route to the USA? that would usurp the ban.

  4. What can be done to revert this? This was expected. I am onboard if someone can come up with an idea. I am so sick of the quality & service (non-existent) on US aircrafts.

  5. I suspect this “big political win” is very short term! My money is on the ME3 long term. The US3 are ultimately their own worst enemies!

  6. @Ryan: Gary will solve the problem while you’re onboard. Just stay in your seat till you hear from him.

  7. Emirates couldn’t earlier make these types of cuts because it would have been a direct admission that, now that govt is expecting better performance from the airline, govt subsidies WERE fueling performance and providing clear advantage over less subsidized airlines across the globe. It’s clear Emirates is pointing at Trump as the reason for these cuts so they don’t have to admit that guilt. The real test will come when electronics bans are lifted, will Emirates reinstate all these flights? I seriously doubt it.

  8. This does nothing to improve the shoddy service on US airlines, its completely anti-competition and will make our airlines even more robust at being obnoxious and provide even less service on the ground and onboard!

  9. @raja – competition or not the US airlines are in complete control of how they function, and I’d say that the over-the-top ME carriers are not the bar that many other airlines would shoot for anyway.

  10. I doubt orders will go away immediately. Emirates has a reputation for employing younger aircraft so some retirements are inevitable. Maybe the scavenger (Delta) will pick up some 10 to 12 year old ex-Emirates 777’s for their own use?

  11. @ Robert

    you seem to live in the delusion that your aviation industry isn’t supported by government!

    Try an estimated $155 billion between 1918 and 1998:

    (AVIATION: DIRECT FEDERAL SPENDING, 1918-1998 CRS report number: RL30050
    Author(s): John W. Fischer and Robert S. Kirk, Economics Division
    Date: February 3, 1999)

  12. This is full on bullshit. “Joelfreak” is right. We’re already seeing major international tourism hits (and frankly, who can blame them). The negative effects on our economy of Trump’s presidency I think will become evident sooner than any of us thought.

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