Bahrain’s Gulf Air in final talks to buy 50 aircraft -CFO

Gulf Air said negotiations with manufacturers were expected to finish by the first quarter of 2016

Bahrain’s Gulf Air is in final talks to place an order for up to 50 aircraft to meet the airline’s needs over the next decade, the carrier’s chief financial officer said on Wednesday.

“We are looking at both narrow and wide-body aircraft for replacement of (the) current fleet… and for growth,” Sahar Ataei, CFO of Gulf Air, told Reuters in an email interview.

She said negotiations with manufacturers were expected to finish by the first quarter of 2016, but did not disclose which manufacturer was preferred.

AFP news agency quoted Bahrain’s information minister last month as saying Gulf Air was planning to buy up to 50 Airbus planes.

Bahrain’s national carrier, with a fleet of 28 Airbus narrow and wide-body aircraft, is going through a lengthy restructuring which aims to return the loss-making airline to profit.

Gulf Air reported an annual loss of BD 62.7m ($166.2m) for 2014, down from a loss of BD 93.3m in 2013, as it switches from low-value transit traffic to high-yield point-to-point routes.

While the airline said in its annual results that it is optimistic about 2015, it did not say when it could turn a profit.

State funding of BD 185m in 2012 helped the airline to reduce debt.

“Legacy debts will be completely paid off before end-2016 and Gulf Air is current and on track with all service providers and suppliers since the restructuring of the airline in Jan. 2013,” Ataei said.

The airline would look at leasing as well as financing options to acquire new aircraft, she said. These would be put on Gulf Air’s current routes as well as new destinations that fit with its growth plans, Ataei said without elaborating.