Gulf Air to simplify fleet to 26 jets by April

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Gulf Air is aiming for a fleet of 26 aircraft under its restructuring programme, and expects to complete talks to finalise the fleet structure by April.

The troubled Bahraini flag-carrier operates an all-Airbus fleet after it agreed to return a pair of leased Embraer 190s.

Gulf Air says it has started the "groundwork" to simplify its fleet in accordance with a revised network and says it will have a mix of "predominantly new" long-haul and short-haul types with "high-specification on-board products".

The restructuring programme, which followed an overhaul in the loss-making airline's management towards the end of last year, intends to achieve cost savings of 24% by the end of 2013.

Gulf Air says it has cut its workforce by 15%, having undertaken a 6% reduction in January, and says most changes to the size of its staff will be complete during the second quarter. Most cuts will be achieved through outstation restructuring and non-renewal of contracts, as well as natural attrition and voluntary retirement.

"No Bahraini pilots will be affected by the restructuring," it states, part of its strategy to focus on retaining qualified nationals.

The carrier is claiming "progress", citing a 34% reduction in losses during January compared with the same month in 2012. Gulf Air also says it increased passenger revenues by nearly 10% on budgeted figures and achieved higher yields.

Gulf Air has axed four loss-making routes recently and says it has cut lease rates. It says there are "strong" indications that it will meet a target to increase revenue per available seat-kilometre by 9% this year.

It is focusing on high-yield point-to-point connections rather than low-yield transit traffic and expects to finish realigning its route network by March.