Speaking to Head Office employees at an event held yesterday close to the airline’s head quarters in Muharraq, Bahrain, Gulf Air’s new Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Samer Majali, officially announced and outlined a comprehensive review of the flagship national carrier.
Hosted by Mr Talal Al Zain, Gulf Air Chairman and Chief Executive of Mumtalakat, the investment arm of the Government of Bahrain, which owns the airline, Mr Majali clearly highlighted the objective to develop a sustainable business that serves the needs of the travelling public, continues to support the growth of the national economy and the demands of the business community.
Mr Majali said: ‘As Gulf Air approaches its 60th anniversary we have much to celebrate. We are a recognised global brand, with a significant pioneering heritage and a wealth of experience in connecting the region with the rest of the world.’
However Mr Majali went on to highlight the unique set of challenging circumstances which the international aviation industry is currently facing including the global economic slowdown, the significant fluctuations in fuel prices as well as the increased competition in the regional market. Given these difficult circumstances he went on to highlight the need for change and the need to develop a strategy that delivers Gulf Air’s future aspirations.
He said: ‘Gulf Air has not implemented a comprehensive strategy review since we became the national airline, which is only responsible for the future travel and business needs of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Gulf Air is currently not sustainable and is receiving subsidies, which could otherwise be invested in other parts of the national economy. ’
In outlining the strategy, Mr Majali said that the review has now started and he hoped to be able to report back by the end of this year with a series of clear recommendations. In the meantime, Gulf Air would be undertaking a comprehensive engagement process with all key stakeholders and audiences including customers, employees, the Gulf Air Union, the business community and Government.
In addressing current rumour and speculation he confirmed that no decisions have been made yet, stating that this would be premature as this stage as this was the purpose of the review. He confirmed that his priority is to complete the review process and to determine the future direction of the airline once it had been completed. Until then there will be no change in the daily operations of the airline.
However, in seeking to address employee concerns over future job security, Mr Majali said: ‘a key priority is to safeguard jobs. Gulf Air has an enviable pool of talent, expertise and knowledge. We need to secure this asset as an integral part of the airline’s business and long term future. But we cannot rely on Government subsidy indefinitely so we also need to build a self-sufficient and commercially successful airline. Saving jobs for Bahraini nationals and all our hard working staff is important and a successful transition will result in more job security, more benefits, investment and other opportunities that deliver a better service for Gulf Air customers. It will also enable us to be a better partner of choice for the business community, our partners and suppliers.’
‘Once we have defined our future position in the market, achieved where we want to be, this success can then lead to the rewards that everyone will deserve’ Mr Majali concluded.
Mr Talal Al Zain confirmed Mumtalakat’s support for the business review, stating: ‘Mumtalakat has a responsibility to the Government and to the people of Bahrain to make sure our national assets are being managed efficiently and effectively, helping to drive our national aspirations as highlighted within the Bahrain Vision 2030.’
In welcoming the new CEO to Gulf Air, Mr Al Zain highlighted Mr Majali’s considerable experience in working within the aviation industry in the Middle East and his track record as previous CEO of Royal Jordanian. He said: ‘He has already turned a national airline dependent on Government support into a self sufficient and profitable airline.’
Mr Al Zain concluded: ‘Gulf Air is incredibly well positioned to maximise its many opportunities. It is a business we can all be proud of. But no business is immune from review and reflection as it looks to the future to ensure its commercial viability.’