Could this be the latest impact of the U.S. “laptop ban” on non-stop flights from the Middle East? Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it will eliminate service to San Francisco effective October 29.
Etihad didn’t mention the laptop ban in its announcement, instead blaming the decision on lower-than-expected passenger levels and fares on the route. Earlier this year, Etihad had reduced frequencies on the SFO-Abu Dhabi route from daily to three flights a week.
Etihad’s presence at SFO got off to an inauspicious start. When it arrived in San Francisco in November of 2014, it used an older 777 borrowed from India’s Jet Airways, in which Etihad has partial ownership- this led to the nickname “Jetihad.” Back then we posted a TravelSkills Trip Report about a Jetihad flight which confirmed what many travelers feared- service that was not quite up to Etihad standards.
Eventually, it put one of its own 777s on the route.
Etihad said it will refund or rebook passengers booked on SFO flights after October 29, and that it will continue service on its other U.S. routes.
Two months ago, Emirates said it planned to reduce its U.S. service this spring by 25 flights a week on routes from Dubai to Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale – although it did not eliminate any of those routes.
Emirates placed the blame on declining passenger demand, which it attributed to the laptop ban and on the Trump Administration’s efforts to ban travel from select Muslim-majority countries.
Every reduction in U.S. service by the Big Three Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) is expected to benefit Air India, since a considerable amount of U.S.-India traffic flows through the Gulf States on those carriers.
Next month, Air India will launch new service between Delhi and Washington Dulles, and recent reports indicate it plans to start flying from Delhi to Los Angeles in September and possibly to Dallas/Ft. Worth later this year. The Indian carrier was reportedly encouraged to expand its U.S. presence by the success of its San Francisco-Delhi route.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways – which has maintained an aggressive growth strategy for the U.S. – said in April that it is planning to add Doha-San Francisco service in 2018. It already flies to 14 U.S. cities. Qatar officials said the airline’s load factor on U.S. routes fell by only half a point since the laptop ban was imposed.
However, Qatar Airways announced those plans before encountering a crisis this month when several of its regional neighbors – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, banning its airline from flying into their airports or through their airspace.
Thoughts, please! Have you flown Etihad or Jetihad? What did you think?