Gulf Air to Switch to Regional Focus; Won’t Compete (Much) with Emirates, Etihad, Qatar

Just as Cranky has had a place in his heart for Alitalia, I have had a soft spot for long-struggling Bahrain-based airline Gulf Air.  The Bahrain-based airline was once co-owned by the governments of Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Qatar, but Qatar & Abu Dhabi cut out in the early part of the decade to build their own carriers (Qatar and Etihad).  With both of those airlines introducing (or re-introducing) incredibly strong products, and with the global juggernaut Emirates in their backyard, Gulf Air has had a very, very rough go of it.  How rough?  It has had 4 CEOs since 2002.

To give themselves a shot, they’re going the regional route, announcing that they’ll sell their long-range A340s, and boost nonstop regional routes from Bahrain.  Given that the other capitals in the area (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and, to an extent, Muscat) are all pretty well covered with nonstop flights, this may not be a bad move.  However, I’m going to guess that a significant amount of traffic in the region is between those cities mentioned above, as well as services to India.  Nonstop flights to Bahrain are already available to those cities.  So perhaps they branch out beyond the Gulf States to Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon and Syria, creating a route map that looks more like Air Arabia.  But with high costs.  I dunno, doesn’t sound promising…

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