Gulf Air defers resuming Iran flights

October 19, 2012

Gulf Air said that it would not resume flights to Iran this month as planned after the Iranian authorities have been slow in approving them.

“Gulf Air regrets to announce its services between Bahrain and Iran have been deferred until further notice,” the company said in a statement. “The postponement has become necessary following the delay in receiving approval from the Iranian Civil Aviation Authority of the airline’s flight schedule as permitted under the terms of the current bilateral agreement.”

Gulf Air said it was looking forward to launch flights early next year and set up a dedicated customer services team to contact passengers affected within the next seven days to offer alternative options.

“The national carrier apologises to the passengers affected and reassures them that it is working hard to get approval from the relevant authorities to re-launch services as soon as possible,” the company said.

In August, Gulf Air said that it would resume its services to Iran and Iraq on September 20 after they were halted in March 2011, days into the unrest that hit the nation that the local authorities linked to Tehran.

Gulf Air, founded in 1950, said that one of its prime objectives was to connect Bahrain to the Middle East countries and the rest of the world.

“As such the airline currently operates the largest network in the Middle East with non-stop flights while providing seamless onward connections to other international destinations. The airline’s current network stretches from Europe to Asia, connecting 48 cities in 30 countries, with a fleet of 39 aircraft,” the company said.

However, the company has suffered huge losses after its lucrative routes to Iraq and Iran were suspended.

A move by the government to help the company has been resisted by several lawmakers who wanted to impose conditions before funds could be extended to Gulf Air.

King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa this week issued a decree allocating 185 million Bahraini dinars (Dh1.7 billion) to recapitalise Gulf Air in order to actively address the national carrier’s current position and secure its long-term sustainability.

Samer Majali, Gulf Air CEO, welcomed the move and said that the funding will be used to fulfil the airline’s current debt obligations and meet its future restructuring costs.

“Working together with the Government of Bahrain and its shareholder, Mumtalakat, to review its existing fleet and network, Gulf Air will implement an accelerated strategy and aggressive restructuring programme to achieve more dramatic cost and liability reductions and put the airline firmly back on the road to sustainability following a difficult 2011,” he said.

According to Majali, the requirement for funding was “a direct result of a series of unprecedented regional and economic factors, including a significant increase in fuel costs that Gulf Air faced, in common with other carriers around the world since 2011”.

“In addition to this, Gulf Air had specific other factors to contend with. The security situation locally and in the region meant the airline was forced to suspend eight of its most profitable destinations. Further concerns such as visa restrictions and travel bans by several countries significantly cut the number of people travelling through Bahrain,” he said.

Relations between Bahrain and Iran have plummeted after Manama accused Tehran of “blatant interference in its domestic affairs”.

Both capitals pulled out their ambassadors amid the growing tension.

However, Bahrain reinstated its ambassador in Tehran and attended the Non-Alignment Movement summit held in the Iranian capital.

However, Iran did not reciprocate and kept its diplomatic mission in Manama under its charge d’affaires.

On Monday, the foreign ministry summoned the charge d’affaires to protest against Iran’s meddling in Bahrain’s domestic affairs and attributing misstatements to Bahraini officials over an alleged mediation request.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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