Friday, September 18, 2009
Gulf Air has revealed PHASE II of its Iraq expansion which is now reflected in all major GDS systems. Apart from the recently launched 5 weekly nonstop flights to BGW-Baghdad, GF has also decided to launch new flights to NJF-Najaf and EBL-Erbil. FYI, Najaf is the holy city of Shiite Muslims and flights will be initially flown with a 4 weekly nonstop frequency effective Sept 26th 2009. This will later on increased to daily services effective Oct 26th 2009. The flight schedule is as follows:
GF203 Dep BAH 1120 Arr NJF 1255
GF202 Dep NJF 1410 Arr BAH 1540
Erbil is located in northern Iraq in the Kurdistan region which has seen considerable development over the past decade.
GF will fly 3 times a week to EBL effective Oct 26th 2009 with the following flight schedule:
GF 205 Dep BAH 1945 Arr EBL 2205
GF 204 Dep EBL 2255 Arr BAH 0110+1
The above mentioned flights connect very well with LON/CDG/FRA via BAH in both directions. All flights to BGW, NJF and EBL will be flown using GF’s fleet of Airbus A 320s.
Gulf Air has officially announced that it would like to sell or lease out its entire fleet of 9 Airbus A 340-300s to interested parties as soon as it is feasible. GF currently owns 5 A 343s which are 15 years old where as the remaining 4 are leased from Boeing and are ex SQ birds. The only airlines which I feel would want these 15 year old A 343s of GF are those based in Africa and Latin America.
I do not see any Arab, European and American carrier being interested in these planes. With regards to Asia, the only airline I feel that can make good use of them because it can fly nonstop on long haul routes + can be bought for a bargain price is AIR ASIA X who can reconfigure these planes to suit their needs for further enhancing their European, Middle Eastern and Austral-Asia expansion.
Very pleasing to see GF take the initiative here and create for themselves a nice little high yielding niche market for themselves until QR/EY/EK/KU enter the fray. Other niche markets that it should focus on entering in 2010 are Kabul and Tashkent. To KBL, there is enough traffic that it can obtain at a decent yield from the GCC, Europe, North America and Far East Asia to warrant flying initially a 5 weekly A 320 and after analyzing the situation, increase it to daily services. TAS is the main gateway to Central Asia and also the financial hub of the region. No GCC airline flies to the city and demand is high especially from UAE. There is also decent feeder traffic that can be gotten from BOM, DEL, BKK and PVG originating flights. Initially, BAH-TAS flights could be launched with an A 320 three times per week and then judging by demand, increase it later on to 5 times per week.