Gulf Air East Africa flights – to be or not to be

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(eTN) – The long awaited approval by the Bahraini government of nearly half a billion US Dollars injection into Gulf Air might have stark consequences, when, according to a source from Manama, the matter comes to the kingdom’s parliament for discussion. Worst case scenario projections are that apart from flights to London and Paris all other long haul destinations may have to go, in a move reminiscent to Air Seychelles of late last and early this year, where all long haul destinations were axed.

Such a radical cut could also see a major reduction of the airlines’ staff, from the present 3.800 to below 2.000. Pending aircraft orders, that include at least 20 Airbus A330 and some 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, may also be under review.

The flights to Nairobi would be of immediate concern in East Africa though. Unlike the flights to Entebbe, axed in early 2012, Nairobi route is doing very well but may nevertheless be under review, as part of an overall restructuring of Gulf Air. The airline has many faithful travelers from not just Kenya but across Eastern Africa who connect onto the GF flights in Nairobi, persuaded by excellent in-flight service, attractive fares, and easy transfers via Bahrain’s airport.

Some aviation pundits are already predicting that GF will eventually need to reduce to a regional carrier level, serving what remains to be the largest network across the Gulf, a move which however would require teaming up with other airlines, who would need to feed long haul traffic via Bahrain.

A statement by Gulf Air welcomed the capital injection which will allow meeting debt obligations and ‘meet its future restructuring costs. Working together with the government of Bahrain and its shareholder, Mumtalakat Holding Co., to review its existing fleet and network, Gulf Air will implement an accelerated strategy and aggressive restructuring program to achieve more dramatic cost and liability reductions’.