Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air says plans to reach profitability by 2012 have been pushed back by one year, due partly to the regional uprising earlier this year.
The airline now aims to be profitable by 2013. In 2010, chief executive officer Samer Majali said he hoped to reduce the airline’s $500m losses to zero by 2012 (MEED 16:3:10).
Similarly, plans to privatise Gulf Air in line with Majali’s target of profitability have not moved forward and any decision remains with the airline’s owner, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company.
Gulf Air is still pursuing expansion plans and will launch three new routes to Rome, Entebbe and Juba in the next six months. Flights to Rome will begin on 30 November, flights to Entebbe in Uganda on 5 December and flights to Juba in South Sudan will start on 7 February 2012. Gulf Air has already launched eight new destinations during 2011 and will launch new destinations in Saudi Arabia in September, says Karim Makhlouf, chief commercial officer of the airline.
Makhlouf also says that Gulf Air is in renegotiations with the US’ Boeing and Europe’s Airbus over “a better mix” of aircraft for the existing order book, which currently is for wide-body aircraft. Gulf Air is focusing more on regional narrow-body aircraft. The carrier is also in talks with a regional aircraft provider and an announcement will be made at the Bahrain Airshow in January 2012, Makhlouf says.
Over the past year, Gulf Air stopped using nine older aircraft as it revamps its fleet.
The airline is also seeking to increase its market share of flights to and from the UAE by 20 per cent in 2012. Its current market share is 40 to 45 per cent.