Following a cut in its flights to the United States, UAE airline Emirates may resume services. Emirates passenger numbers had been significantly hit by a number of policies invoked by the Trump administration.
There was the electronics ban of 2017. This policy saw Trump’s administration banning any electronic above the size of a mobile phone being carried onboard certain flights. This was supposedly due to Al-Qaeda planning to conceal undetectable explosives in large device batteries. At the time Emirates CEO Tim Clark said “(to) suggest that Dubai doesn’t have the equal capabilities or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing”.
On the 20th April 2017, the airline announced that it would reduce the number of flights operated to the US due to “a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our U.S. routes”. This was despite the airline offering free tablets on board for passengers to use.
Emirates was also significantly hit by a travel ban imposed by President Trump’s executive order. The order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, was originally imposed at the beginning of 2017. While the ban did not specifically target the UAE, home of Emirates, the airline saw a 35% drop in bookings as a result.
Stating his Concern, Clark said regarding the travel ban “It’s the tone of it. We have brought millions of Muslims to the United States, but now they may not feel welcome, they may look at going on holiday elsewhere.”
In the past Emirates has traditionally flown to big US cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This is partly due to the fact that it currently only operates two big aircraft, the B777 and the A380. However, with its order for 40 B787s all of that could change. Speaking about the possibility of new US routes, Clark said “Imagine the 787-9 going into some of these cities or even the 777-8X,” Clark said. ‘It’s still a big airplane, but it’s not a 380. You’ve got much more [appropriate] capacity for fitting the demand for these second or third-level tier cities than you might have with a A380.”
While on the subject, Clark refused to rule out fifth freedom flights via Europe. The airline currently operates two such flights. Newark via Athens, and JFK via Milan. These flights allow the airline to essentially get a 3 for 1 on its flight. Passengers could fly from Dubai to Milan, Dubai to JFK, or Milan to JFK. These flights irritate US carriers who don’t want more competition to and from Europe.
Speaking of fifth freedom flights, Clark said “We don’t do it for the sake of doing it. If there’s an opportunity there, if they’re underserved markets and if the incumbent carriers don’t take it and if we have the air service rights to do it, then why wouldn’t you do it? It’s a commercial decision.
The next few years could be interesting for Emirates with plans to launch Premium Economy by 2020.