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Gulf Air undergoes major expansion plan

Interview - February 10, 2017

Bahrain is located in the heart of the GCC, a country with a rich aviation history and a strategic location. In line with this, Bahrain International Airport’s planned future expansion will serve Gulf Air and the aviation sector as a whole, catering to increased two-way passenger movement and convenience and in support of Bahrain’s economic growth over the coming years


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently posted a global passenger traffic results for September 2016, showing that demand grew 7% compared to the same month in 2015. International RPKs climbed 6.9 percent with airlines in all regions recording growth compared to 2015. Can you give us your insight on the airline industry?

Most of this growth comes from outside our network. Although the GCC region is relatively small, the future of air travel demand is coming from the big GCC carriers, they are exposing the region to the world. Bahrain is similarly committed – across all fronts – to promoting itself across a global platform and Gulf Air, as a national carrier, plays a key role in establishing greater awareness of the Kingdom across many diverse platforms. We do so via our network map, strategic sponsorships and a host of other ways that help to further bolster the Kingdom’s economic development and promote Bahrain on a regional and global level.

Operating one of the largest regional networks, with double daily flights or more to 10 regional cities, Gulf Air provides excellent connectivity and facilitates flexible, convenient point-to-point travel for passengers travelling across the network with direct flights to various cities in the GCC, Middle East, Europe, Indian Subcontinent and Asia. The airline’s network currently serves 41 cities in 24 countries spanning three continents. Of course in this industry we are always linked to and impacted by regional economic indicators and the aviation industry is known for being sensitive to economic fluctuations – and being one of the first industries to be directly impacted by them. Yet, aviation trends and forecasts are promising and although we are in a dynamic and challenging industry our focus is on being increasingly flexible and adaptable to future change in order to survive and thrive.


In line with the Bahrain International Airport expansion plans and upgrades, it was also announced that as part of its fleet renewal strategy, Gulf Air has announced a firm order of 29 of the A320neo Family from Airbus. You have said, “this restructured order meets Gulf Air’s future fleet requirement and our network expansion plans. As a result, I now look forward to furthering Gulf Air’s fleet modernization process while supporting our network and overall passenger experience enhancement strategies.” Will the fleet upgrade coincide well with the opening of the expanded facilities at BIA, the airline’s home base.?

A 10-year strategic and holistic plan for the airline is being implemented that will shape Gulf Air’s future trajectory – incorporating planned future fleet and network growth and schedule enhancement (greater frequencies to select destinations). Our fleet was a primary focal point in our strategy. Gulf Air serves all its destinations with a combination wide and narrow body fleet, connecting Bahrain and the GCC region to the world. We now have 45 new upcoming aircraft deliveries following restructured orders of 16 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, 17 Airbus A321neo and 12 Airbus A320neo aircraft with delivery scheduled from Q2 2018. The new aircraft arrival will herald a new era for Gulf Air and we are preparing for this and looking forward to a promising future.

Our restructured aircraft orders secure Gulf Air’s long and short haul network development – in line with our long-term network and fleet strategy which will see Gulf Air’s further calculated, strategic growth and development providing the Kingdom of Bahrain with the requisite network connections, maintaining its links with East & West and providing the needed balance in support of the Kingdom’s economic development. With greater, newer aircraft comes the opportunity for our network to expand and for our airline’s capabilities to grow in tandem as we look to operate longer flights across the globe. The fleet plan serves the airline and our passengers, bringing in the desired cost and operational efficiencies and providing distinctive products with a more environmentally friendly fleet. The efficiencies of the 787 family will provide Gulf Air with superior fuel conservation, reliability and passenger comfort. The A320neo family fuel-efficient aircraft also come with lower operational costs and better profitability. Configuring these aircraft for greater numbers of passengers – with greater comforts onboard – will also help decrease the unit cost of the seat, enhancing profitability for the airline. With the right shape and size, these additions will allow Gulf Air to truly connect Bahrain to the world. And I hope all our passengers, recurring and new, will enjoy travelling with us.

Bahrain is located in the heart of the GCC. It is a country with a rich aviation history and a strategic location. In line with this, Bahrain International Airport’s planned future expansion will serve Gulf Air and the aviation sector as a whole, catering to increased two-way passenger movement and convenience and in support of Bahrain’s economic growth over the coming years. Bahrain International Airport is integral to our operations and to our offering. Gulf Air will have its own dedicated terminal and various facilities which will better serve the airline’s passengers – while the airport itself will maintain the USP it has always been recognized for – convenient, efficient movement. The ease, efficiency and convenience of procedures within the airport make entry, exit and transit through the Kingdom highly attractive. Bahrain’s role as a strategic aviation hub in the MENA region is reinforced by its deep-rooted aviation heritage which is deeply linked to Gulf Air’s history and heritage. This continues today as the aviation hub, including the Kingdom’s national carrier, that has been strengthened over the years today represents, collectively: convenience, efficiency and hospitality – a unique proposition. 


2015-16 has been difficult for some of the airlines, with several incidents occurring around the world. How do you make sure the safety and security meets the highest standards?

Gulf Air operates according to the highest, global safety and security standards. We are regulated and audited by the Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority, who regularly carry out comprehensive inspections. This is in addition to our own strict and high standards. At Gulf Air we undergo thorough assessments of network risks and potential issues – encompassing our routes, operations and destinations. We assess and audit all potential risks and our team are trained regularly on all safety and security matters.

Additionally, we have, since 2005 successfully completed 6 internationally recognized, biennial IATA Operational Safety Audits (IOSA) – designed to assess operational safety – in line with IATA’s two-year audit cycle. Between IOSA audits, Gulf Air’s Quality Assurance Departments continuously review and appraise internal operational processes, conducting rigorous quality control processes and self-auditing to ensure conformity with the IOSA Standards and Recommended Practices in addition to industry best practices. We are proud of our safety record, and we are pushing hard with our continuous internal assessments to ensure we identify any issues proactively and remain at the forefront of best practice aviation standards in global safety and security.


How is GULF AIR redefining the relationship with customers and creating added value?

Gulf Air is renowned for its unique service; this is a trait associated with our airline since its formation. Our service is contemporary and infused with traditional Arabian hospitality and the standard we have set has become part of the culture of our organisation. That translates into a longstanding focus on our passengers and a commitment to delivering products and services that satisfy their needs – giving them a wealth of choice and control over their travel experience. 

We would not be here today nor would we have the vision and drive for the future without our passengers’ invaluable feedback which we regularly obtain via surveys and targeted communications. It is for them, and guided by them, that we extensively review all areas of the airline’s offering, consistently striving for improvement in order to deliver a superior travel experience across all fronts. Our airline is committed to being an industry leader and developing products and services that reflect the evolving needs and aspirations of our passengers. Our focus is our passengers and Gulf Air’s current offering ensures a convenient, secure and pleasant travel experience for every kind of traveller.

There are so many aspects of the Gulf Air offering available to passengers today, which help make the concept of air travel easier and much more appealing. Everything from our fares to our one-stop-shop website that offers a suite of services beyond flight bookings to include car rentals, tours and much more.

We have combined our hallmark Arabian hospitality with a family-friendly package and a business-friendly package giving you onboard Sky Chefs and Sky Nannies. Most recently we have rolled out new onboard products for our premium passengers and our younger passengers too – ensuring a more comfortable flight for all.

That’s not all, we are also strengthening our corporate base with revamped Falcon Corporate Programmes: Falcon Corporate Plus and Falcon Corporate Loyalty – tailored offerings that will benefit both employers and employees in companies, making business trips more profitable for all parties.

With an average on-time-performance (OTP) of 82.7 percent in 2016 we have been independently ranked by UK aviation analysts OAG as the most punctual GCC airline in 2016 – key for travellers who value their time and are looking for an airline that will value their time too! Going forward we will soon be welcoming a new fleet composed of state-of-the-art aircraft, fitted with the latest products. Finally, our network is continually assessed according to passenger requirements, whether that means we increase frequencies to select destinations because of high demand or open new routes – our network reflects our passengers’ travel needs and we are delighted to monitor their feedback and respond to it with tailored travel solutions.


Gulf Air’s history is intertwined with Great Britain; in the late 1940s Freddie Bosworth, a British pilot, began an air taxi service to Doha and Dhahran from Bahrain, later registering the company as Gulf Aviation Company Limited, (British Overseas Airways Corporation became a major shareholder in 1951). Gulf Air operates twice daily, direct flights to/from London, Heathrow.

The relationship between Bahrain and the UK is a rich and historic one; that’s why Gulf Air have celebrated 200 years of ties between both countries through a series of events in addition to being proudly present at every event marking the bicentennial of relations celebrated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the UK Embassy. We have been flying to London since 1970 and it remains a key destination for the airline both in terms of strong two-way business and tourism movement.