Gulf Air CEO Samer Majali (centre) at yesterday’s media briefing on the airline’s resumption of 5 times a week services to Colombo from Bahrain after a lapse of 5 years. Gulf Air Chief Service Officer Air Marcus Bernhardt and General Sales Agents John Keells Group President Transport Group Romesh David are also present - Pic by Daminda Harsha Perera
By Cheranka Mendis
National carrier of Bahrain, Gulf Air re-commenced its flight network to Sri Lanka yesterday after a lapse of five years with five frequencies per week.The airline which left the country amidst worsening economic situations and spillover effects of political issues touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Tuesday bringing into shore Chief Executive Officer Gulf Air Samer Majali, Chief Service Officer Gulf Air Marcus Bernhardt and a team of officials and journalists.
The airline which was in Sri Lanka for 27 years before moving out has returned due to high customer demand, new opportunity in tourism and investment backed by rising political and fiscal stability and the growth in the export market. “Among the reasons of re-establishing the legacy it must be noted that the region itself is becoming a key outsourcing centre and Sri Lanka takes pride of place in this sector. Moreover the government expresses great hope in developing the infrastructure front fast which is essential in making the tourism product accessible to all,” Chief Executive Officer Gulf Air Samer Majali said.
“We are confident that there will be a major boost for tourism from Bahrain due to the re-entry of the airline.”
Gulf Air returns...
According to statistics 22,000 persons have travelled from Middle East to Sri Lanka in 2009. President of the Transport Group John Keels Romesh David agreeing with Majali’s statement asserted that with the increase in connectivity to Bahrain, Sri Lanka will be able to peak during the off season and earn more revenue as Middle Eastern travellers are categorised as high spending tourists.
The airline reaffirmed its partnership with Mack Air (Pvt) Ltd, the airline division of John Keells Holdings to provide general sales agency services.
The opening of operations of Gulf Air which will fly five frequencies per week at the start is likely to make daily flights by summer 2011. Majali said that nearly 100 connections per week with three hour flights to and from Colombo are offered through Gulf Air. The airline with its largest number of connections from the Middle East is equipped to offer one stop service to any Middle Eastern destination.
“With Bahrain’s ‘business friendly’ trade and industry strategies and its geographical location at the door-step of Saudi Arabia offering a multi-million dollar business market, the re-commencement of service to Colombo will be great news for the Sri Lankan business community as they now have a direct and non-stop service to Bahrain.”
Majali stated that primarily the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and Baharin are targeted as the inbound market.
Gulf Air, known for its great choice of seamless onward connections has acquired 12 new aircraft since 2009. As of now 40 per cent of their fleet is brand new. However by 2011, 75 per cent of the aircraft will be in brand new status. The average age of the new fleet is seven years ensuring cost reductions, reliability and easy maintenance. In 2011 the fleets will acquire in-seat entertainment in business, super business and economy class levels. However, adding the new entertainment device will not incur additional charges for the customers and will be folded within the company.
Targets for Gulf Air are as simple as to maintain its repute as the largest carrier within the Middle East. The company which declared losses last year is firm in taking action to mitigate losses by careful planning and looking at new destinations, improving the quality and reducing the cost structure, Majali asserted. By 2012 he hopes to achieve breakeven position.
He said that the penetration of five new destinations inclusive of Sri Lanka within the year has been done according to new strategic plans. Gulf Air hopes to go into four more destinations before December 2010. In 2011 four more destinations are to join the Gulf Air map, though Majali declined to reveal the said destinations.