Politics

Emirates cutting service to U.S. Guess why.

It’s getting wild out there. Today Emirates shared news that it is reducing service to 5 of the 12 US cities it serves.

Emirates Statement:

Emirates can confirm that we will be reducing flights to five of the 12 US cities we currently serve. From 1 May and 23 May respectively, our Fort Lauderdale and Orlando operations will move from daily services to five a week. From 1 and 2 June respectively, our Seattle and Boston operations will move from twice-daily services, to a daily service. From 1 July, our operations to Los Angeles will move from twice-daily to a daily serve.

This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to US. The recent actions taken by the US 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 US.

Until the start of 2017, Emirates’ operations in the US has seen healthy growth and performance, driven by customer demand for our high quality product and our international flight connections. However, over the past 3 months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our US routes, across all travel segments. Emirates has therefore responded as any profit-oriented enterprise would, and we will redeploy capacity to serve demand on other routes on our global network.

We will closely monitor the situation with the view to reinstate and grow our US flight operations as soon as viable. Emirates is committed to our US operations and will continue to serve our 12 American gateways – New York JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando – with 101 flight departures per week, connecting these cities to Dubai and our global network of over 150 cities.

Trump slump in travel? Maybe, maybe not

 

(This is a slightly updated version of my story about the Trump Slump in Travel that appeared on NBC)

 

Is an unwelcoming political climate really creating a “Trump Slump” in the annual $250 billion international inbound business and leisure travel industry in the United States?

“Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe So,” say travel industry experts and number crunchers who point to a variety of hard and soft data points to measure the travel impact of initiatives such as President Donald Trump’s efforts to impose a travel ban barring inbound travelers from some predominantly Muslim countries and the recent ban on electronic devices in the airline cabins of U.S.-bound airplanes from certain countries.

On the up side, international visitors spent more than $20.8 billion on travel to, and on tourism-related activities within, the United States in January 2017, according to a recent report from the National Travel and Tourism Office.

That represents a one percent ($220 million) increase compared to 2016.

Looking back a bit longer, in the 60 days before Trump’s first travel ban was announced (November 29 to January 27, 2017) ForwardKeys, a company that analyzes air travel bookings, found international bookings for visits into the U.S. increased 2.2 percent in comparison to the same period last year.

But right after Trump issued the first travel ban, search engines such as Hopper saw a serious slip in flight searches into the U.S. and in the eight days following January 27 (the day the travel ban was first imposed) ForwardKeys saw international bookings to the U.S. fall by 6.5 percent.

Since then, there’s been a continued slow-down in U.S.-bound air travel bookings.

From January 28 to March 25, bookings were essentially flat, up just. 0.1 percent over the same period last year, according to ForwardKeys.

“When one bears in mind that as a general rule air travel grows consistently ahead of inflation, this is not a particularly encouraging statistic for the USA,” ForwardKeys CEO Oliver Jager told NBC.

The World Travel & Tourism Council agrees. Its data predicts that visitor exports, which is money spent by foreign visitors in the country, will decrease by 0.6 percent in 2017.

Though also attributable to the strength of the U.S. dollar, the dip is predominantly due to “the negative sentiments of the U.S. as a destination created by some of the new policies of President Trump’s Administration,” said Helen Marano, WTTC’s Senior Vice President Government Affairs. “Already, there have been clear signs and data that international visitors are rethinking booking their holidays to the U.S.”

But in a Travel Trends Index report released Tuesday, the U.S. Travel Association said that international travel to the U.S. “defied growth expectations” and actually grew faster than domestic travel during February.

But the group warns of a drop-off in international travel going forward.

The February TTI data — which factors in trips that involve a hotel stay and/or air travel — captures the first full month after President Trump’s first travel ban order was issued, but the U.S. Travel Association economists say that data fully doesn’t fully reflect the impact of the currently-on-hold ban’s impact on demand for international travel to the U.S.

“It’s important to remember that there’s a significant lag time between searches for international trips and when they’re actually taken — typically a matter of months,” said David Huether, the U.S. Travel Association’s senior vice president for research.

“There’s a lot of data out there purporting to show a drop in international travel to the U.S. because of President Trump’s executive order,” said Huether, but “the reality is we do not have a definitive data picture of the order’s impact yet.”

While we wait to get more data and find out whether or not the Trump administration’s travel ban go into effect, “the United States has already sent a message to the global community,” said Ian Jeffries, Vice President, Group Director at public relations and marketing firm Edelman, “We are counseling clients that there is an opportunity for the travel industry to lead and roll out the welcome mat. Tourism business leaders have the responsibility to let the world know that their cities, their hotels, their attractions are still open for business – – and that all travelers are welcome.”

 

Travel Tidbits: Travel Ban + Air Canada

In the news as the week ends…

A federal appeals court refused to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Trump’s response:

Meanwhile…

Air Canada is celebrating its 80th anniversary and on Thursday had a series of events in several Canadian cities  to introduce a new livery design and new employee uniforms.

The new design will eventually appear on Air Canada‘s fleet of 300 mainline and regional aircraft, but the first three aircraft sporting the new livery are already flying.

Stay tuned to StuckatTheAirport.com this weekend for a report on my 24 hour  – intended – stay at Charles de Gaulle Airport, with an overnight at the new in-terminal Yotel.  Plotting out my meals, my shopping and my sleeping in a tiny, windowless cabin.

 

Trump is making trouble for the travel industry

Formal and informal actions taken by the new U.S. President are already having a huge impact on many parts of the travel industry.

Here’s a shortened version of a piece I wrote for NBC News this week:

The travel industry was already fretting about Donald Trump even before he won the U.S. presidential election. Remember this tweet from Royal Jordanian Airlines?

This weekend, the airline posted a more somber message, following President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel into the U.S. for people from seven majority-Muslim countries:

United, Delta, Emirates, Etihad and other domestic and international airlines are scrambling to make rebooking options and refunds available in light of Friday’s executive order.

Trump’s “extreme vetting” measure is being challenged in courts and strongly denounced from many corners of the travel industry — and could have ripple effects for America’s tourism dollars.

“The ambiguity of these very latest developments introduced by President Trump is casting a shadow over the future travel demand to and from the U.S., especially as many trade representatives are concerned that such changes could bring similar types of retaliation from other countries,” said Nadejda Popova, Euromonitor Travel Project Manager.

“The new executive order could also impact how the U.S. is perceived as a tourism destination and how open to foreign travelers it will be in the future,” she added.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who came to the U.S. from Iran in 1978, sent an email to employees saying Trump’s executive order portrays the United States as “inward-looking versus forward thinking, reactionary versus visionary.”

On Monday, Expedia joined Amazon in filing a declaration as part of Washington State’s lawsuit against Trump and the Department of Homeland Security that seeks a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the ban.

“We are generally not aggressive against issues that do not relate to our company,” Khosrowshahi told the New York Times, “But this is travel, our soul and spirit, and we felt we had to respond. Honestly, it was not a debate whether we should we be involved.”

Elsewhere, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer shared a LinkedIn post saying the company was against this executive order “not just because we are a global business with a diverse workforce, but because we are human beings and citizens who respect and love the fabric of our nation.”

And on Tuesday, the United Nations World Travel Organization issued a statement expressing “deep concern and strong condemnation” of the U.S. travel ban.

“Global challenges demand global solutions and the security challenges that we face today should not prompt us to build new walls,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in the statement. “On the contrary, isolationism and blind discriminatory actions will not lead to increased security but rather to growing tensions and threats.”

Rifai added that, “Besides the direct impact, the image of a country which imposes travel bans in such a hostile way will surely be affected among visitors from all over the world and risk dumping travel demand to the U.S.A.”

Confusion, protests after Trump’s executive order on immigration

Scene at JFK Airport Saturday evening, courtesy NYCLU via Twitter

Protests erupted at airports across the country – and confusion reigned within – Saturday in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive  order to restrict entry to the U.S. by nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries -Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The move was partially blocked late Saturday by a U.S. District court judge in Brooklyn who issued an emergency stay preventing deportations for those already in the U.S. or in transit with valid visas, but some people were still refused entry.

The story is changing by the minute and protests will continue, so keep an eye on the news today and in the days ahead.

In the meantime, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, WestJet and other airlines have posted alerts offering waivers for those traveling to the United States who may be affected while others are working out their responses and should be posting them today.

Here’s Delta’s wording: