Gulf Air upgrades fleet to fight off rivals

7 Apr 2009

Gulf Air has upgraded its product offering on a number of key international routes into Asia by introducing new aircraft leased from Indian carrier Jet Airways.

The Bahrain-based carrier will add the four new Boeing 777-300ERs, on its key trunk routes linking Bahrain with Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and London.

Each new aircraft offers a total of 312 seats in first, business and economy class.

The Boeing 777-300ER’s First Class comes with a private suite with bespoke furnishing and a fully flat bed complete with a personal wardrobe, while the herring-bone Business Class configuration offers a lie-flat bed with 180-degree recline, a privacy wall for personal space. Economy Class will seats provide a 130-degree recline and an adjustable hammock headrest.

The new planes are part of a broader project to overhaul Gulf Air’s fleet, which has faced powerful competition from Gulf rivals Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines, that include orders for 59 new aircraft, including 24 Boeing 787 “Dreamliners” and 35 Airbuses. This year, the airline is scheduled to take deliveries of four wide-body A330s and five narrow-body A320s.

Gulf Air has also adjusted its schedule. The airline has increased its flights to the key European business hub of Frankfurt from nine to 11 per week. Flights to Kuala Lumpur and Tehran will now become daily and the Bahrain-Manila service has been increased to 12 times per week.

In other developments on Middle Eastern-Asian routes

• Etihad Airways will launch non-stop flights starting on May 7 to Astana in Kazakhstan from its Abu Dhabi home base.

The airline will fly to the Kazakhstan capital once a week, using an Airbus A319 aircraft. The airline already flies to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

Like Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan is a major centre of oil and gas production and the route is expected to attract business travelers from the energy sector.

• India’s Jet Airways has added a Dubai-Chennai route to its network and has increased its frequency on the Mumbai route despite the regional travel business experiencing a general downturn.

Jet will launch daily direct services to Chennai from Dubai starting on April 23. On the same day, its frequency on the Dubai-Mumbai route will increase to twice daily.

Indian carrier Kingfisher had plans to launch a Dubai service in March but has postponed its plans owing to the economic downturn.

The Chennai service will use the Boeing 737-800 single-aisle aircraft.

The flight from Chennai departs at 12.45pm and arrive in Dubai at 3.30pm, the return flight from Dubai will leave at 4.30pm, arriving in Chennai at 10.15pm local time.

• The Dubai government has launched a new low-cost airline, flydubai, which will start flights in June to Beirut in Lebanon and Amman in Jordan as initial destinations, with plans to extend beyond the Middle East to include Indian destinations. The Dubai government also owns Emirates Airlines.

Kenny Coyle

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