Emirates sees slower US traffic in fallout from travel bans

World’s biggest international airline says ready to shift travellers to other parts of its network to cope with demand changes

Emirates has seen US traffic slip following President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries and restrict electronics on flights from Mideast airports.

The world’s biggest international airline, which routes passengers from across the globe through its hub in Dubai, is ready to shift travellers to other parts of its 155-destination network to “cope” with demand changes, Thierry Antinori, Emirates’ chief commercial officer, said Tuesday.

“We see people waiting a bit, especially in Iran,” with some knock-on effect in India, where Emirates is a key conduit to the US, Antinori said in Dubai. Passenger flows between these countries and the US are “moderately slow.”

Meanwhile, growth in China is helping Emirates offset headwinds in the U.S. With double-digit increases in demand, the country has been “a good growth story for Emirates,” Antinori said.

The comments show how Gulf carriers are weathering the squeeze stemming from Trump’s travel policies by leveraging their massive networks and upgrading services. Qatar Airways on Monday said it saw demand for US flights decline by less than 10 percent, which CEO Akbar Al Baker called a “manageable” drop. The state-owned Gulf airlines, including Etihad Airways, responded to the electronics ban by offering some passengers loaner laptops or tablets in a bid to hold on to lucrative international business travelers.

Those responses appear to be helping to absorb the brunt of the impact. After Trump’s first travel ban, Emirates President Tim Clark said the rate of booking growth dropped by as much as 35 percent.

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