Passengers at Dubai Airport duty free. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: The travel ban imposed by Donald Trump on travellers from a number of majority-Muslim countries has had a mixed impact on airlines operating in the UAE.

Latest figures measuring global travel patterns have shown that US travel to and from Islamic destinations have collapsed in the wake of the ban, as American passport holders have opted to hold off trips to the Middle East due to fears they might have problems re-entering the US. Many passengers from the region, even those not included in the ban, are also holding off travel to the US.

Etihad’s chief executive, however, has just confirmed that despite Trump’s order, bookings on flights from the UAE to the United States have increased, thanks to a pre-clearance facility at the Abu Dhabi airport that allows US-bound passengers to process immigration prior to boarding the aircraft.

Emirates airline had said that there has been a 35 per cent decline in ticket bookings following Trump’s decision. Trump has imposed a ban on citizens from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan to curb the flow of migrants into the country, eventually causing long queues at immigration counters and delays to the travelling public.

A report furnished to Gulf News by Forward Keys, which analysed 16 million flight reservation transactions daily, showed that bookings for flights to America from the Middle East has dropped by 5.7 per cent in the wake of the executive order. Bookings for Middle East-bound flights also nosedived by 27 per cent.

Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said on Monday that while other airlines in the Middle East may have been hit by people’s reluctance to travel, their bookings are showing a positive trend. “In these times of uncertainty, people are moving over to Abu Dhabi to take advantage of [the pre-clearance facility],” Hogan was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

“If you’re going into secondary search that’s better happening in Abu Dhabi than maybe on arrival in New York. So we’re seeing an increase in bookings.”

Abu Dhabi International Airport is one of the 15 foreign airports around the world that have immigration pre-clearance services. The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility, which can be found in Terminal 3, allows US-bound travellers to undertake immigration screenings prior to departure, thereby enabling passengers to avoid queues on arrival in the US.

Sources in the travel industry said that a lot of people are avoiding trips to the Middle East region for fear that they won’t be able to re-enter the US.

“Travel ban has not only impacted travel from the seven affected countries to the US, as one would expect. It has also affected travel in the opposite direction, too,” said Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKeys.

“At this point, we suspect that United States citizens may be avoiding travel to Islamic countries, fearing that they will not be welcome or that Muslims based in the United States may be avoiding travel fearing re-entry problems or both.”