Gulf Air to reduce losses by $26m
Manama, February 12, 2014
Gulf Air is planning to reduce its annual losses by at least BD10 million ($26.4 million) this year.
Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed has told MPs they had already dropped from around BD200 million in 2012 to BD89.5 million last year, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
He revealed losses are expected to decrease to as low as BD70 million under an ambitious plan to revolutionise the national carrier and steer it into future profitability.
Ahmed, who is also responsible for the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, said the BD110 million saved last year was extra money for the government to spend on other vital projects.
"Parliament is saying that the board lacks knowledge in the airline industry, but there are three businessmen within it who run multi-million dinar companies in Bahrain," he said.
"We don't need ticket sellers or pilots, we need people who can develop the airline and we chose most board members from the Cabinet because we wanted stability first and then in future board members will be mostly from the aviation sector.
"For 12 months we have been searching for a chief executive officer, but no one wants to work because experts don't want interference from the government or parliament in their work, and despite assurances, no one is willing to accept the job."
Ahmed said internationally acclaimed airline managers had been approached, but had declined the job.
"Top Bahraini experts have been approached, but they too refused to accept, because they don't want to be powerless and want to be real decision makers," he said.
Ahmed said under his supervision, unused aircraft that were parked in Bahrain International Airport, were now operative.
"We have increased destinations and work hours from 10 to 12 in air and Bahrainisation is now 65 per cent compared to other regional airlines, which only have 20 per cent," he said.
"I can't say that there are no major problems until today in Gulf Air, but MPs have to stop speaking negatively because employees then lack motivation and don't see a future in the airline, opting to move elsewhere."
Ahmed announced the government was studying setting up a national aviation holding company, which would encompass all companies in the field.
Meanwhile, parliament eventually approved the BD185 million bailout package given to Gulf Air by Royal decree in 2012, despite a recommendation from its financial and economic affairs committee to reject it.
An initial vote was inconclusive with 16 votes for and 16 against, but it changed to 17 to 15 during a second vote.
The bill will now be reviewed by the Shura Council.
Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa acknowledged MPs' reluctance to approve was a message to the government that they did not agree with bills being passed while they were in recess.
Meanwhile, parliament second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Ma'awada urged the government to cancel all debts owed to Bapco by Gulf Air, which have reportedly reached BD200 million. - TradeArabia News Service