Gulf Air overhaul 'cuts losses to $234 million'
Manama, November 6, 2013
Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, has reduced losses to BD90 million ($237.4 million) so far this year by implementing a radical cost-cutting exercise, a top government official said.
This compares with annual losses of BD200 million before a major downsizing of the airline was launched last year, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
The figure was revealed by Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed during an appearance in parliament, in which he also appealed for MPs to stop attacking Gulf Air and the ongoing recovery plan.
Some MPs had accused the airline of squandering public money, while one claimed it was being run by "Masonic" groups.
"There are 1,500 Bahraini families living off Gulf Air and the airline is now in a far better position than it was a year ago," said Ahmed.
"The government criticises Gulf Air, employees from inside are doing the same and MPs are making things worse with heavier criticism, which has a stronger negative impact.
"We appeal for MPs to give Gulf Air a chance to recover. For months parliament has called for the private sector to invest in the airline, but no investor is willing to come forward when parliament continues to make off-putting remarks.
"A promise to drop annual losses from BD200 million to BD100 million was made in writing by the government and we have so far this year managed to keep losses below BD90 million, two months before the end of the year. More millions will be saved - I am sure."
Parliament was yesterday due to vote on a Royal decree issued in October last year granting the airline a BD185 million bailout, with some MPs calling for a largely symbolic vote against it because it was issued while the National Assembly was on holiday.
However, MPs postponed the vote for four weeks after Mr Ahmed pledged the Gulf Air board - led by Deputy Premier Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa - would meet parliament's financial and economic affairs committee to explain how the money was spent.
"As legislators asked we got rid of unused aircraft and have replaced unprofitable destinations with others that are profitable, besides increasing flights to Dubai and Kuwait," said Ahmed.
"Now we have four destinations in Pakistan and soon Trivandrum, in India, and Iran. The number of airline employees has dropped from 3,800 to 2,800 - and those who left include 600 expatriates."
In response to an MP's claims that certain groups were controlling the carrier, Ahmed admitted "weird" things had happened, but did not elaborate. "As MP Abdulhakeem Al Shemmri has just said, there are weird things going on inside the airline and we can't say more, but they will be cleaned up," said the minister.
Al Shemmri had complained that "Masonic" groups were running the airline.
"Groups with deep Masonic concepts like the Lions and Rotary were running the airline from within its ranks and to end its problems, they have to be rooted out," he said.
Meanwhile, parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman and Al Asala Bloc president Abdulhaleem Murad explained MPs did not oppose the BD185 million bailout, but the way it was allocated.
"We are not against the bailout, just the fact it was issued by a Royal decree a day before parliament came back from its recess last year," he said. – TradeArabia News Service