On Wednesday, Emirates Airlines— the Middle East’s largest airline — announced that it would be curbing flights to the United States due to decreased demand stemming from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.
Emirates is headquartered in Dubai, which is a major hub for travelers coming from the six countries affected by Trump’s travel ban.
Dubai is also one of 10 cities in Muslim-majority countries affected by the Trump administration’s laptop ban, which prohibits laptops and other personal electronics from being brought aboard planes in carry-ons.
Just like its first iteration — which additionally banned travelers from Iraq — Trump’s executive order restricting travel from several Muslim-majority countries has been blocked by the courts. Emirates’ decision indicates that it has still, however, had a chilling effect on would-be visitors to the U.S.
The airline’s reductions are due to begin next month, and will affect five of the 12 U.S. destinations that Emirates serves. U.S.-bound flights from Dubai will be reduced from 126 to 101.
The airline stressed the decision was “commercial.”
“The recent actions taken by the U.S. 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 U.S.,” the carrier said, as reported by the Associated Press.
Emirates and other gulf airlines have been expanding in the U.S. in recent years, and are major servers for international travel. The reduction in service will have a disproportionate impact on Americans with family abroad in the Muslim-majority countries — many of whom rely on connections through Dubai for international travel.
The reduction may also have a negative effect on U.S. travelers writ large. The U.S. air travel market is largely controlled by large airline conglomerates, with the vast majority of flights being serviced by American, United, Delta, or Southwest. This lack of competition gives major U.S. airlines more control over cost and services offered — and has led to a generally dismal customer experience.
In the 2016 rankings of best airlines in the world, none of the U.S.’s top four airlines made it anywhere close to the top 20. Emirates was ranked first.
The move from Emirates comes a little over a week after outrage erupted stemming from United’s treatment of a passenger on an overbooked flight — who, after refusing to give up his ticketed seat, was knocked unconscious and dragged off the flight by airport security.
Fly the friendly skies with a real airline. pic.twitter.com/wE5C5n6Lvn
— Emirates airline (@emirates) April 11, 2017
Emirates airline, reacting to the incident on Twitter, unleashed a now-viral video captioned “fly the friendly skies with a real airline,” trolling United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz. In March, Munoz said that Gulf airlines, like Emirates, were not “real” airlines.
The video also touted the airlines’ many customer service awards. Superior service offered by Gulf airlines and expanding service in U.S. markets has been putting pressure on U.S. airlines — like United — in recent years. But if international lines, particularly ones like Emirates with exceptional service, cut back on flights to the U.S. as a result of U.S. politics, it may only strengthen domestic carriers’ control of the market.