Gulf Air insists alliances will need Middle Eastern partners

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Middle Eastern carrier Gulf Air believes the region will be important coverage area for the global alliances, and indicates that it remains open to joining one of the airline groups.

Membership of an alliance was once firmly a part of the Bahrain-based airline’s business strategy. The carrier held discussions, notably with Star Alliance and Oneworld, several years ago but has since undergone fundamental changes of ownership and management.

“Alliances sooner or later need to have a footprint in the Middle East,” said Gulf Air chief executive Bjorn Naf, speaking to flightglobal.com's sister premium news site ATI at the IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul. But he adds: “There’s a lot of strong carriers in the Middle East that have a lot of ego.”

Few Middle Eastern airlines are allied. Emirates has shunned the global groups and other large carriers, such as Etihad Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Qatar Airways, have not shown any significant signs of wanting closer ties.

But Naf says Gulf Air is not adopting a deliberate stand-alone posture. “Gulf Air can’t compete with Emirates – and we don’t want to,” he says. “If the management believes an alliance is of benefit, we’ll go to the board.”

Gulf Air has several codeshare partners including Oneworld’s American Airlines and Royal Jordanian, and Star’s BMI, Thai Airways and EgyptAir.

Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news