The largest airline in the Middle East Emirates slashed flights to the U.S. by 20% on Wednesday citing a drop in passenger demand due to tougher security measures imposed by the U.S. and the White House administration’s attempts to ban travelers from six nations that are Muslim majority.
The decision by the carrier, which is owned by the government of Dubai, is the strongest sign to date that the new measures imposed on travelers bound to the U.S. from the Middle East could take a financial toll on Gulf airlines that have expanded quickly across the U.S.
Dubai was 1 of 10 cities located in Muslim majority nations that were affected by the ban on personal electronics, including laptops, in carry-on baggage aboard flights bound for the U.S.
The hub for Emirates at the Dubai International Airport, the third busiest in the world, is a major point of transit for worldwide travelers who were affected by the executive orders of President Donald Trump that temporarily halted the entry of citizens of the six countries.
The most recent ban on travel suspended new visas for those people from Libya, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. It also froze the refugee program for the country. Like a ban earlier that included citizens of Iraq, it was blocked by courts from taking effect.
Emirates said reductions in flights would affect five of the 12 destinations it serves in the U.S., and the first cuts would begin in May.
In a prepared statement, the Middle East carrier said that recent action the U.S. government has taken relating to entry visa issuances, heightened vetting for security and the restrictions of carrying on electronic devices in the cabins of aircraft, have impacted in a direct way the interest as well as demand of the consumer for air travel into the United States.
Emirates does not give out its financial data for operations in the U.S. or its individual routes. However, it said that it had seen a healthy performance and growth there until the beginning of 2017.
Since Trump took office there has been what the airline described as a substantial deterioration in booking profiles on all its routes into the U.S. across every travel segment.
Its Americas region that includes routes to Latin America and Canada represented 14% of its revenue of $22.74 billion earned during its fiscal year through March 31 of 2016.