Gulf Air's new hub plans

Gulf Air's Airbus 340.

Gulf Air is preparing an extensive upgrade of its hub operations in Abu Dhabi, details of which are still being fleshed out.

The highly ambitious plan is part of a three-year restructuring programme, launched from January 1, to revive the fortunes of one of the region's premier carriers.

"It is our intention to upgrade our emphasis on the UAE, of which we are the national carrier. Gulf Air will play a key role in the UAE market and strengthen our position over the next three years," said James Hogan, president and chief executive.

"Along with the Abu Dhabi aviation authorities, we are keen to develop Abu Dhabi as a major gateway for the UAE.

"With this strategy, the intention is to position Gulf Air as a strong alternative through Abu Dhabi for the strong population centres in a number of the emirates. The frequency of our flights from this hub will naturally increase as part of this move.

"Operating multiple hubs should not be an issue for any airline. It is common practice in Europe, and for Gulf Air, three hubs - Bahrain, Muscat and Abu Dhabi - will provide a lot of flexibility."

The carrier currently operates 211 flights into and out of Abu Dhabi.

Gulf Air also intends to base six Boeing 767 aircraft for the new "all economy, full service" carrier it will launch in the first half of the year at its Abu Dhabi hub.

The three-member management team will also be based there.

Meanwhile, Gulf Air has reduced its losses to below BD41 million ($108.7 million) for 2002 from the forecast of BD50 million ($132.6 million), according to provisional results. The full 2002 results are due out by March.

"Our aim is to halve losses in 2003, reach breakeven in 2004 and a profit in 2005," said Hogan, who joined the carrier at the height of its woes in May last.

"The recovery plan for Gulf Air has been put together by its staff and not by consultants. That will be the carrier's strength."