x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Emirates looks to scale up flights to US after electronics ban hits demand

Tim Clark , President of Emirates Airline, eyes expansion in US . Pawan Singh / The National
Tim Clark , President of Emirates Airline, eyes expansion in US . Pawan Singh / The National

Emirates, the world’s largest airline by international passengers, has started to ramp up some of its routes to the US that it had scaled back as a result of an electronics ban implemented in March by the Trump administration, and is looking to boost further capacity, its president said.

“We’ve already put Orlando back up to a daily and we’ve seen extraordinary high seat factors on Boston and Seattle on the one frequency,” Emirates president Tim Clark said in an interview with The National. “I would say it’s not going to be long before we start re-assessing a reintroduction of our capacity into the US… I’m hoping we can restore that fairly soon.”

In March, the US announced that laptops, tablets, e-readers and other large electronic devices would be banned from cabins on flights from 10 airports, including those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The ban disrupted operations of a number of carriers, with the drop in demand translating into commercial losses.

The ban led to a fall in demand for the 10 airlines affected amid a slowing travel market that has been characterised by lower yields as a result of terror attacks in Europe and intense competition from low-cost carriers and changing business models of carriers leaning more on narrow-body planes. For Emirates the ban resulted in a dip on routes to the US by as much as 20 per cent, said Mr Clark.

The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association, which represents 275 carriers, had estimated the ban would cost passengers US$655 million in lost productivity, $216m for longer travel times, and $195m for renting loaner devices on board. In revised forecasts in June, the organisation said it anticipates net profit for global airlines to drop by about 10 per cent this year to $31.4 billion from 2016.

“It wasn’t just the laptop ban, it was the Muslim country ban [by the US] which had a halo effect on the whole of our part of the world including west Asia; India, Pakistan and everywhere else, because a lot of people felt they weren’t welcome there that they were going to have difficulties,” said Mr Clark.

“There was a marked fall-off, particularly in the Indian subcontinent. The two [bans] taken together we saw major double-digit falls in demand for our services. That’s why we pulled the Boston second frequency, the Seattle second frequency, the Los Angeles second frequency and reduced Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.”

A survey by Campbell-Hill Aviation Group released this month shows that Emirates supported more than 104,000 jobs in the US and contributed about $21.3bn to the US economy in 2015. Emirates is the largest operator of the Boeing’s wide-body 777 aircraft (mostly equipped with GE engines) as well as the double-decker A380 which also has US components and engines.

As of April 2017, Emirates operated 126 passenger flights a week to 12 airports in the US.