Gulf Air too has said the US will one day feature among its destination offerings, but for now it serves America exclusively through its codeshare agreement with American Airlines, which it offers through London. That situation is unlikely to change in the short term, according to vice president for network, John Shepley, as the carrier simply does not have the fleet to serve the US. Its current long-haul workhorse — the A340-300 — does not have the legs to make the Bahrain-New York hop.
The carrier has explored numerous avenues around this technical constraint, initially with a view towards serving Sydney non-stop (it currently flies to Australia’s largest city via Singapore). Shepley says that the carrier considered taking on some of the A340-500s that Air Canada ordered but never took possession of, but came away from the analysis doubtful that the aircraft could facilitate profitable flying, especially with today’s oil prices. “The aeroplane burns 23% more fuel than the -300, and has considerably less capacity. We just did not think we could get a high enough yield on 240 seats to make any money.”
Even so, Shepley says that the carrier will serve the US, something he says it will have to do to remain competitive in the region. Putting forth 2007 as the likely roll-out date, he says Gulf Air will probably undertake a re-fleeting exercise in the next half year, and that this project will likely see more fuel-efficient aircraft, such as Boeing’s 787 or the Airbus A350, join the company’s stable. He also says that it is possible that a US carrier would fly to Bahrain with the Gulf Air code.
Commenting on the ostensible success of Emirates’ service, he adds: “Adding the US to their route map has much bigger benefits to their network than adding their main hubs will have for ours. Without a connecting complex behind it, it is tough to make those markets work for US carriers.” For his part, Shepley concedes that getting a US codeshare partner to make the long flight to Bahrain will be a tough sell, and that Gulf Air therefore anticipates flying the route itself.