(Adds context, additional comments from interview)
By Allison Lampert
Aug 10 (Reuters) - Emirates airline expects a single-digit percentage increase in its U.S. capacity in 2018, a company executive said on Friday, as sales rebound after travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration weakened demand from the Middle East early last year.
Matt Schmid, senior vice president, Emirates North America, said by phone from Toronto that travel demand to and from the United States is back at levels from before January 2017.
Emirates has already increased the number of flights on some U.S. routes it had reduced in spring 2017 after U.S. government travel restrictions weakened demand.
“Now we are really back on track,” he said. “Demand is extremely strong again.”
The carrier is also adding capacity in Canada, expanding its A380 service to the country’s largest city, Toronto, effective Aug. 18.
Schmid said Toronto has one of the airline network’s highest seat load factors, or percentage of available seat capacity filled with passengers.
“There is very strong demand between Toronto and Dubai and between Toronto and the key destinations we serve beyond Dubai,” he said.
Emirates is expanding its Canadian network at a time when Saudi Arabia’s state carrier has suspended flights to and from Toronto. The oil-producing giant recently froze new trade and investment with Canada following a diplomatic row when Ottawa urged Riyadh to free arrested rights activists. Emirates has said it does not comment on intergovernmental affairs.
Reporting by Allison Lampert; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski Editing by Richard Chang and Steve Orlofsky