What Happened To Bahrain Air?

Saj Ahmad, aviation expert, says forcing the carrier's closure may not necessarily benefit Gulf Air.

By
Neil Churchill
February 13, 2013

Bahrain Air announced on Wednesday morning that it would suspend its flights and operations with immediate effect and file for liquidation, bringing to an end the privately owned carrier’s five-year existence.

The company blamed on-going political unrest in the Gulf state and a lack of assistance from the government for its demise.

But in a region where global airlines are growing faster than many international competitors, why has Bahrain’s local carrier failed to make ends meet?

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, says it is no surprise politics and government is at the forefront of the finger pointing.

“There has been more focus on what’s happening in Syria in contrast to Bahrain, however things in the latter country are not good either. Therefore the predicament that Bahrain Air is in comes as no surprise,” says Ahmed.

“The Bahraini government is looking to re-energise Gulf Air at the expense of facilitating growth for Bahrain Air, so the smaller carrier was always going to struggle, irrespective of the other bigger GCC carriers.

“For Gulf Air, it could be good news as it will have less domestic competition and many customers will by default flock to them.”

But has Bahrain’s aviation heads been shortsighted and metaphorically shot themselves in the foot?

Ahmad suggests that despite the Middle East’s determination for leading, global airlines, local smaller carriers play an important role in a region’s aviation success. Something that may have been overlooked in Bahrain.

“Bahrain won’t necessarily suffer without a low cost airline but the likes of Gulf Air will be unable to compete at the low end with fierce rivals like Flydubai who continue to blow them (and others) out of the water. This reality will bite Bahrain in the future if it’s not addressed.

“Gulf Air is by no means out of the woods itself. Its turnaround plan has many positives, but there is little to suggest the airline has managed to reach or will even attain the targets the Government has set.

“Politics sadly will not help airlines in Bahrain. Gulf Air has been struggling because government, not airline executives run it and without a free hand, Bahrain and its carriers will never be able to rise to compete with the likes of Emirates.”

Bahrain Air’s official statement on its closure can be read here.

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