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Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:00 pm

In 1949, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways were founded. The former being the SAS like national airline of Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, and later Qatar.

Gulf Air has been expending steadily in the following 40 years. However, nowadays, it is becoming an isolated player amidst other local national carriers that have sprang up in recent history: Emirates as the biggest; Oman Air and Qatar Airways as ones with renewed smaller or larger ambitions; and not long ago Etihad Airways, the official national airline of the UAE based in the capital Abu Dhabi.

This means that the support base for Gulf Air has shrank to... Bahrain. Can Gulf Air keep (regain) and increase its already weakened position or is it doomed to either be a Bahrain based regional player, not to mention worse?
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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:09 pm

I believe Gulf Air is in need of a very serious overhaul. Their product is not consistent and very often outright shabby. From an outsider's point of view, I can only see that, here in Jakarta, travel consultants are avoiding Gulf Air and their sub par Gulf Traveller product like a pest. Even their mainline product is very often of doubtful standards. I flew BKK-HKG on them a couple of months back and the service was just abysmal and the aircraft's interior in a very sorry state. I hear similar stories from colleagues who have used GF between SIN and SYD. I can only hope that their service to Europe, which is operated with their newer A330s, is of higher quality than what Asia gets...
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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:19 am

I believe Gulf Air has succeeded in improving its product since Mr. Hogan took on the helm. In fact, Gulf Air has won the "Most Improved Airline" Award by Skytrax. It has introduced unique products and services and recently launched new First/Business class products which have impressed a lot of people. They also appear to be investing heavily in marketing and advertising throughout the Gulf.

I believe Gulf Air can secure a better future if it focusses on its Bahrain hub. The tiny island Kingdom is witnessing rapid ecomomic growth and a lot of tourism projects similar to those in Qatar and Dubai are underway. But the Bahrain hub itself has not yet shown any signs of significant growth as experienced by Qatar Airways (Doha) and Emirates (Dubai). The first is widely subsidized by its government to develop Doha as a major hub, while Emirates enjoys a single hub status which gives it a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, Gulf Air is somewhat 'schizophrenic' and lacks a well-defined growth strategy.

Times have changed and the economies and prospects for Gulf states are on the rise, so the region can support a few major carriers, such as Etihad, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways. Presently, there are no signs of Oman withdrawing its support for Gulf Air. In fact, Oman Air is planning to order a limited number of Boeing 787s but the airline said it will continue to work closely in complementing Gulf Air, and not compete with it. So oddly, Gulf Air is likely to continue operating hubs in both Bahrain and Muscat.

I think Gulf Air has lost out against Qatar Airways and Emirates and these two have dwarfed the former's potential. I really hope Gulf Air will do something about it to remain significant.
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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Wed Apr 20, 2005 1:07 am

Two theads going on same subject here with some overlap...the Oman Air 787 order sort of covering similar content.

In my reply to that thread I mentioned that it seemed that GF would soon have to rebrand as the national airline of Bahrain.

I recently flew LHR-MCT-LHR with them...I must say the out bound flight in Y was pretty ordinary. The aircraft was only 50% full but the ground staff really didn't care where they sat you...despite checking in early, I was sat in the very back seat of the A330 which has the cabin crew directly behind you overnight where they sit and chat..not conducive to sleep. I was told that after take off I could move anywhere, but in reality a large number of free seats were piled high with blankets (!!) and they'd sat other people alone so that blocks of seats were occupied by people lying across them.

I was lucky to be upgraded to Business on the return as the flight was overbooked. This product was far superior. However, the inflight entertainment system was still showing the previous month's films (seen on the way out!). I know this is a minor thing (especially when not paying) but if I had been paying the full wack I would have been slightly irritated! The A330 hadn't been fitted with the new flat bed product (shame) which I'm sure will be a huge improvement. Generally, their business product was quite good.
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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Wed Apr 20, 2005 1:38 am

how is gulf traveler doing?
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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:49 am

Well I personally believe in GF's future.

Bahrain is being established as a truly "state-of-the-art typical Gulf city" (I should say Manama). They are very dynamic, and the way they act right now reminds me a bit of Qatar 6-7 years ago. As a motorsport fan I can tell you their F1's venture has received many appraisals from the Formula One world. And that time Bahrain had overtaken Dubai... in F1's Middle-East agenda.

GF has a very good product and certainly suffered EK/QR's comparaisons but their new F/C seats are very promising. And I find the Gulf Traveller concept very smart as well. Now I wonder what GF did with its plan to buy some Embraer 190 for a regional market.

For thos who want to see GF's new seats:

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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Sun Apr 24, 2005 1:49 pm

Considering that the Abu Dhabi Govt's airline 'Etihad' is growing rapidly will they soon pull out their stake in GF and obviously concentrate on developing their own baby?

I've heard from Gulf Air Maintainence (GAMCO) staff in AUH that GF is going down and may not be able to sustain for long.

What do you guys think?

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RE: Future Of Gulf Air Amidst Regional Competitors

Sun Apr 24, 2005 2:08 pm

Good topic.

The real danger for GF is that airlines like Emirates flood the market with so much capacity that they can never compete when it comes to yield. And EK is entering so many markets that GF will face competition in literally every market it serves.

The Gulf Traveller idea, while a good way to rationalize the blend of low yield traffic in low yield markets, does not do anything to improve the yield in business class, where they will need as much as they can get to combat the flood of available seat miles placed on the market by EK.
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