Gulf Air is slimming its network in a bid to return to profitability. Previously the Bahrain-based airline was the national carrier not just of Bahrain but also of the UAE, Qatar and Oman, but in recent years it has seen its owning states break away to found national rivals such as Emirates of Dubai, Qatar Airways of Qatar and Etihad of Abu Dhabi.
All these three have expanded more aggressively and stolen market share from Gulf Air, forcing the airline to live more modestly. It will scrap six long-haul destinations including Sydney, Hong Kong and Dublin, retire its B767s and replace some A340s with newer A330s. It will also acquire four narrow-bodied A320s to develop regional links.
The idea is that Gulf Air will better serve the needs of the Bahrain and Oman economies for which it is the designated national airline.
Says the airline's deputy chairman Mahmood Al Kooheji, "Our operation is losing more than 1 million US dollars a day and when you include other costs such as financing the figure would be substantially higher."
Adds the airline's new president and CEO André Dosé: "We will stop operating our heavily loss-making services to Dublin, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Sydney and Singapore. Instead we will allocate more assets to better serve all important centres in the Gulf and Middle East region."
To better improve scheduling "we will introduce a 'wave structure' of inbound and outbound flights to allow us to offer shorter connection times and ensure better connectivity with our Asian and European long-haul flights."
Gulf Air has no timetable for when the six long distance routes will be dropped. All the carrier is prepared to say is that the restructuring will not be complete until early 2009.
For more information go to gulfairco.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter