Bahraini carrier Gulf Air is planning to launch flights to five new destinations from September.

The airline will start flying to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia from 6 December, Basra in Iraq from 31 October and Esfahan in Iran from 30 October. The carrier is also starting flights to Aden in Yemen and Colombo in Sri Lanka from 31 October.

Gulf Air is now the only Gulf carrier to offer flights to Aden and Basra and the airline hopes that the unexplored markets of Addis Ababa and Esfahan will prove successful.

The airline is focusing on regional routes and destinations within a three to four hour flight time in line with plans to reach profitability by 2012.

Flights to Suleimaniyah in Iraq are expected to start in 2011 and the airline plans to fly to 56 cities and operate a 34-strong fleet by 2012.

Gulf Air is also looking at acquiring more regional jets that will be operated on the short-haul routes and aims to have 10 regional jets in its fleet by 2012. It is currently assessing all regional jets on the market from Canada’s Bombardier, European Airbus and Brazil’s Embraer.

Gulf Air signed a contract with Embraer in January to lease two Embraer 170 aircraft with plans to acquire two more later this year.