US travel order saw bookings fall by 35% overnight and have not fully recovered, says airline chief
Emirates, the world's largest long-haul carrier, said on Thursday it was concerned President Donald Trump's latest travel order will still deter Muslim visitors to America, after booking rates on US flights fell 35 percent following January's ban.
Trump signed a new executive order on Monday, which takes effect on March 16, keeping a 90-day ban on travel to the US by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
However, the order applies only to new visa applicants, meaning about 60,000 people whose visas were revoked by the previous order will now be permitted to enter. It also removed Iraq from the list.
“I am concerned. 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," President Tim Clark told journalists in Berlin on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair.
Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Gulf rival Qatar Airways, said on Wednesday his airline had not seen a drop in demand for US flights.
"I make sure that when I deploy my planes, they are full, that the passengers are allowed to go into and out of a country," he said.
Demand for travel to the United States over the coming months has flattened with flights to and from the Middle East the hardest hit, a study released by travel analysis company ForwardKeys showed on Monday.
The January order caused chaos and confusion at airports worldwide, with the airline industry complaining about a lack of clear and direct communication from US officials.
Emirates, which flies to 11 US cities, has not fully recovered from the original Jan. 27 travel ban, suspended on Feb. 3. "The effect it had was instantaneous,” Clark said.
He said the revised order issued this week offered more clarity, and there had been some positive movement in bookings on the Emirates network but not a full recovery.
“When will it recapture the original booking curve is anyone’s guess,” he said, adding that he hoped for an improvement in the summer after the usually quiet period during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Most GCC nationals will fly to the US after Ramadan during the end of May and this travel ban does not effect airline demand from GCC nationals. Many have homes in the US and spend summers there in long-haul destinations like Los Angeles. Emirates could see more demand for EU countries this year, especially London, but this should be accessed further down the road when people starting booking their Eid destinations. With upcoming elections in the EU and the rise of populist candidates, this may have the same outcome at US routes.
True, I expect more people (and not just GCC nationals) to avoid traveling to/through the US. And I would expect most of the US traffic to shift to Etihad thanks to the Abu Dhabi facilities. I rather be denied entry in Abu Dhabi than in the US.
Getting that was a great move given how things evolved, if I had to fly to the US from the region I would probably switch to Etihad even if that means no loyalty benefits, for frequent travelers it may force them switch.