Gulf Air CEO insists no pressure from board to quit

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Gulf Air chief executive Bjorn Naf insists he is not facing calls to resign from the carrier's board and is satisfied that the airline is providing adequate opportunities for Bahraini nationals to take senior roles at the flag-carrier.

Speaking to ATI at the airline's headquarters in the Bahraini capital, Manama, Naf firmly stated that he had no reason to consider stepping aside despite recent public criticism of the carrier's management structure from a Bahraini parliamentary committee.

In a statement at the end of January the committee had demanded more Bahraini nationals in leadership positions and even said a search should begin for a new chief executive.

But Naf counters that three of the top seven posts - the deputy chief, the chief technical officer and chief people officer - are all Bahraini and that the carrier is giving local employees and graduates the training necessary to run the airline efficiently.

"I think the carrier is in a position where you need to know what you're doing," he says. Bahrain's own Economic Development Board already admits that the education system does not prepare its citizens adequately for success in private-sector labour markets, a situation which the kingdom is addressing through its Vision 2030 reform programme.

"I think it's one of our obligations to create jobs for local people," says Naf. "I'm proud to say we've done a lot in terms of 'Bahrainisation'."

Gulf Air is in the process of trying to restore profitability and external managerial experience, he says, benefits the company. But he adds: "Westerners aren't coming here to teach the Arabs business."

Naf says the carrier's board has not indicated any dissatisfaction with his leadership. Despite the statements from the parliamentary committee, he insists he has not faced any pressure to step down and has no intention of resigning.