Gulf Air bolsters capacity – but F1 decision delayed

Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air is boosting capacity in its summer schedule through increased frequencies and new destinations, but will have to wait another month to hear whether its flagship Formula 1 Grand Prix will be reinstated this year.

 

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The F1 race, which had been due to open the season in March, was postponed as the political unrest spread across the kingdom. The 1 May deadline given to Bahrain by Formula 1′s governing body the FIA to devise a rescheduling plan has come and gone, and this has now been extended to 3 June amid the continued threat of more unrest.

 

The race, for which Gulf Air has been the title sponsor since it began in 2004, is a vital status symbol for both the airline and the country in what is a fiercely competitive region for civil aviation. It also provides a significant boost in traffic and profile for Gulf Air.

 

In a statement, the race organisers reiterated that they intend to re-instate the grand prix, but stopped short of a commitment to running a race in 2011: “Clearly our national priority is to find a resolution to the difficulties that the kingdom of Bahrain has experienced,” said circuit chairman Zayed Rashid Alzayani: “The national situation has moved on in a positive manner, the situation is evolving all the time; our day-to-day life is gradually improving under the current State of National Safety.”

 

Despite the ongoing uncertainty over the political situation, Gulf Air is adding over 1,700 seats per week to meet seasonal demand with the launch of its summer schedule. It has started services to three new destinations – Kabul, Copenhagen and Nairobi.

 

Capacity increases will result from increased frequencies and larger aircraft on some routes. The Istanbul service grows from four to five flights a week, with an A320 replacing the current Embraer 170 regional jet. Bangkok sees frequencies increase from seven to nine per week from 1 June and the introduction of a bigger aircraft – an A330. Milan flights are increasing from four to six per week with an A320 replacing a Boeing 737, offering 117% more seats each week.

 

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