Gulf Air to test Embraer 190s as part of fleet evaluation

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Gulf Air is aiming to bring in a pair of Embraer 190 regional jets in the third quarter as it finalises its evaluation of the benefits of smaller types.

The carrier has withdrawn 10 aircraft from its fleet following a strategic review last year, including several Airbus A340s and A320s, and is testing smaller aircraft in order to increase frequencies and reduce the risks associated with new destinations.

It has introduced eight A320s and has started using a pair of Embraer 170s. Chief executive Samer Majali, speaking to ATI at the IATA annual general meeting in Berlin, said the carrier was in the final stages of evaluating the financial and operational performance of the regional type.

He adds that the airline will "bring in two other aircraft" as part of the examination, adding that they will be the larger 190.

The Bahrain-based carrier initiated a review of its entire operation last August, and detailed an overhaul strategy in November which - by adjusting the network, fleet and cost base - aims to halt losses by 2012.

Majali says the airline's losses are on track to be "far less" and that yields had improved compared with last year. Gulf Air hopes to cut losses by one-third to one-half this year, and repeat this in 2011.

Sensitive discussions are continuing with Boeing and Airbus to rebalance long-haul orders in favour of smaller jets, says Majali. "They've been very helpful and forthcoming," he says. "Hopefully we can come to an understanding."