Gulf Air flies high at air show

Gulf Air kick-starts the year on a successful note

THE third Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) concluded recently proved highly successful for Bahrain’s national airline, Gulf Air having signed a number of agreements, with a combined value of more than $150 million, for aircraft maintenance and product enhancement.

“The BIAS is undeniably a significant and strategic industry event with considerable positive impact on both the kingdom and its national carrier,” the airline’s acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Musallam was quoted as saying in Bahrain’s national daily, Gulf Daily News.

“Importantly, we have been able, in our capacity as official carrier of the three-day event and national carrier, to encourage growth in Bahrain’s tourism sector and promote it as an aviation industry hub with this significant business platform in the form of the Bahrain International Airshow.”

On the inaugural day, Gulf Air signed a $100 million five-year service extension agreement with Rolls-Royce extending Rolls-Royce TotalCare support for the airline’s fleet of six A330 aircraft powered by Trent 700 engines.

The agreement allows Gulf Air to maximise engine availability, essential towards meeting high fleet utilisation targets, while providing forward visibility of service costs, helping the airline better manage costs and focus on passengers’ needs - important as it transitions from a period of restructuring to one of development.

On the second day of the show, Gulf Air signed a three-year maintenance, repair and overhaul agreement with JorAMCo (Jordan Aircraft Maintenance Ltd) to meet the airline’s heavy maintenance and ‘C’ check fleet requirements, offering lowered operational costs for the airline while maintaining the highest quality standards.

Gulf Air also unveiled its new A330 product, scheduled to be entirely retrofitted by the fourth quarter this year, and part of the airline’s ongoing proactive re-fleeting and product enhancement strategy.

At the three-day event, deals worth more than $3 billion (BD1.1 billion) were done  and an estimated 56,000 people visited the trade and public areas throughout the show and 100 aerospace businesses, representing 32 countries, took part.

Dates for the next air show have been confirmed as January 21 to 23, 2016.

Meanwhile, the national airline also announced plans to undergo a $20 million aircraft refit that aims to significantly improve the flying experience for passengers at the Airshow.

Starting from June, work will begin on four of Gulf Air’s fleet of six A330s as each in turn is retrofitted with new seats and a revamped interior throughout.

The new business class Falcon Gold seats will be 22 inches wide and fully recline to form a 1.9 metre-long bed complete with privacy partition, massage facility and laptop storage compartment.

Economy class customers, meanwhile, will be able to enjoy an 18-inch wide seat featuring a four-inch recline, an adjustable head and foot rest and greater legroom, thanks to the seats’ slimmer design.

All seats will feature an integrated audio-video on demand entertainment system with individual touch screens, a USB charging port and a suite of movies, video and audio in several languages at the passengers’ fingertips.

The revamp is aimed at future-proofing the fleet for the next half decade, according to Gulf Air acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Musallam. “The aircraft have undergone refurbishment in the past six years or so, but we are looking ahead to the next five years. We want add fully-flat beds in business class and we are renewing our economy class seats as well, which are basically old seats that we would like to get rid of and put in new seats with a very modern entertainment system.”

Initially, the deal will focus on two-thirds of Gulf Air’s fleet of A330s with the remaining two aircraft only undergoing refit if the airline is satisfied with the work.

Avianor chief executive Earl Diamond, whose company is overseeing the project, estimated that each refit would take between 30 to 40 days. “Gulf Air has asked us, in support of their green policies, to dispose of or repurpose the old seats in an environmentally-friendly way and we are committed to doing that,” he said. “The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive for refit at the beginning of June and the remaining three aircraft will come ‘nose-to-tail’ straight after each other.”

Gulf Air’s renewed fleets of A330s will have 184 seats in economy class and 30 in Falcon Gold, the same as the existing configuration.