Gulf Air in talks to buy eight Airbus A320s


MANAMA — Struggling Bahrain-based carrier Gulf Air said Sunday it was holding talks with European manufacturer Airbus to buy eight A320 aircraft, a day after placing a four-billion-dollar order with Boeing.

“We are in active talks with Airbus for eight narrow-body A320s,” its chairman Mahmood al-Kooheji told reporters.

The cash-strapped airline was looking to make a decision “within the first quarter of this year,” Kooheji said.

He was speaking following the official signing of an agreement to order 24 Boeing 787 long-haul aircraft, which was announced late Saturday.

The deal includes a firm order for 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and an option to purchase eight more, with first deliveries expected in 2016.

Gulf Air’s newly appointed chief executive Bjorn Naf said the carrier has opted for Boeing 787 instead of its Airbus wide-body rival A350 because of the “overall economics” assessment.

The airline aims to build up a fleet of 45 to 50 aircraft by 2013, compared to 25 ageing planes now, he said.

Founded in 1974, Gulf Air was owned equally by the governments of Bahrain and Oman until the latter announced in May it was withdrawing from the airline. Previous co-owners Qatar and Abu Dhabi withdrew in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

The airline announced in March that its projected debt at the end of 2007 would be 254 million Bahraini dinars (676 million dollars).