War-troubled skies have airlines in tough situation

Airlines facing troubled times.

Airlines are wading through troubled waters now. The war in Iraq has seen a lot of them making route cuts, applying fuel surcharges and facing increasing insurance premiums, while battling with falling passenger numbers.

A lot of the regional carriers and those from outside the region had initially stopped flying to Kuwait.

Emirates, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air still fly there though with reduced frequency.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have temporarily suspended its daily flights to Bahrain and all other Middle East destination, so has Thai Airways. Air India, after initially saying they would stop operating from Kuwait, Dammam and Bahrain, have now decided to keep the Bahrain and Dammam links going.

Gulf Air has activated a Crisis Centre at its Muharraq headquarters to closely monitor the movement of its flights.

The centre is staffed by more than 20 trained people working round-the-clock.

Airline president and chief executive James Hogan said Gulf Air is operating normally.

"We have received assurances from the Civil Aviation Authorities that the airports of our gateway cities of Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Muscat will remain open for business.

Meanwhile insurers have warned airlines they would levy extra charges on flights to the Gulf region, as military action in the Middle East escalates.

Many airlines have suspended services in the region, but those that are still operating, or plan to resume flights, must now notify insurers and negotiate terms of coverage for each flight.

That could raise the cost of coverage 10 times or more, on a per-flight basis, one insurance broker said.

The move chiefly affects non-US airlines, some of which are still operating in the region.