The Bahraini national carrier aims to cut its 4,900-strong workforce by up to 1,000 staff through natural attrition, and to introduce flexible working practices.

Bjorn Naf, chief executive officer of Gulf Air, declined to comment on a specific target for job cuts, but says the company is recruiting pilots and retraining staff to reduce any duplication of roles within the workforce.

The move to cut staff numbers comes despite plans by the airline to bring in new planes. “We believe we will meet our target through natural attrition and by retraining existing employees to work in areas where they are required most,” says Naf. “We have also implemented stringent payroll targets for each department.”

The company is also evaluating bids from seven international consultants to assist it in streamlining the business to cope with the current environment of high fuel costs and intense competition. A decision is expected within weeks.

“We are appointing consultants to help with the airline’s realignment plan and business improvement process,” says Naf. “Some of the airline’s policies and procedures are outdated and need to be aligned to the industry’s current best practices.”

The company is also bringing in a team from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to conduct an operational audit of the business. Naf says the company is seeking to drive through new environmental and fuel efficiencies.