Gulf Air's new airline targets expat segment


Gulf Air has unveiled plans to launch the region's first, full service, all economy airline, which will make its inaugural flight in June 2003 from Abu Dhabi.

The announcement was made at a press conference held in Abu Dhabi, and according to James Hogan, president and chief executive of Gulf Air, the subsidiary airline will fully complement Gulf Air's mainline offering by meeting the specific needs of leisure and expatriate employment segments.

"Different models of airline structures are becoming apparent in many parts of the world. Having looked at our customer profiles and demographic segmentation we see a tremendous opportunity to develop this operation, which we believe will suit the needs of a changing market," he said.

"With this offer, Gulf Air claims yet another regional first in line with our history of innovation and our entrepreneurial spirit as well as our commitment to going the extra mile for our customers with a terrific value proposition."

The announcement follows the recent approval of the airline's three-year strategic recovery plan, which was presented to Gulf Air's board of directors at a meeting held in Bahrain in December 2002.

In addition to a cash injection of $ 238 million for this year and the continued deferral of government debt, the plan features a number of 'pillars', including brand development, fleet re-construction, Gulf Air's network, alliances and customer service - as well as others, and a strong focus on profitability and cost structure improvements

Gulf Air is negotiating with a number of airframe manufactures to meet its mainline service aircraft requirements over the next 10 years.

Over the short to medium term the leisure operation will be served by Gulf Air's fleet of nine Boeing 767-300ER jets.

Gulf Air will set up a centralised reservations system in Oman's upcoming Knowledge Oasis information technology centre in Rusayl. The facility will serve as the nerve-centre of the airline.

All bookings spanning the Middle East region will be managed through the central reservations centre, which will be operational within the next six months. The world-class centre will provide national employment opportunities and complement Oman's communications infrastructure as a showpiece of technology, Hogan said.

The centre will be headed by Andy Dawson, who has been appointed as head of Worldwide Reservations. Gulf Air is talking to a number of leading alliances, including STAR and One World. A decision about joining one or the other is expected in the next few months, Hogan said.

Landor Associates, the international branding and design consultancy, has been appointed to renew and strengthen the Gulf Air brand, Hogan said.