Flight International online news 14:00GMT: Abu Dhabi’s government is to pull out of its joint ownership of Middle East carrier Gulf Air, leaving the airline in the hands of the Bahrain and Oman governments.

Gulf Air livery - BIG

In a statement the Bahrain and Oman Governments confirm Abu Dhabi’s decision to withdraw from the carrier, but stress their “unequivocal and full support” for Gulf Air, which returned to profitability last year after an intensive turnaround programme.

“Bahrain and Oman have reiterated their full support to ensure the continuity of Gulf Air and the future plans of the airline, in which both Governments take full pride in fulfilling the aspirations of the peoples of the two countries,” the governments say.

Abu Dhabi’s withdrawal is not unexpected. The emirate had been considering its position in Gulf Air three years ago, along with the Qatari Government which also had part-ownership of the then-unprofitable carrier.

Qatar subsequently pulled out of its ownership role in May 2002 as its own flag-carrier, Qatar Airways, underwent strong development. The three remaining states agreed to finance Gulf Air’s turnaround efforts with an $80 million capital injection.

Since then Abu Dhabi has created its own Government-controlled carrier, Etihad Airways, a move which has been viewed as a possible precursor to a withdrawal from Gulf Air. Etihad Airways was set up towards the end of 2003 and has undergone rapid expansion.

Details of any financial transactions connected with Abu Dhabi’s withdrawal have not been disclosed.

Unlike those of Abu Dhabi and Qatar, the Omani Government has not developed its own long-haul carrier, opting instead to use flag-carrier Oman Air to focus on regional operations and developing its partnership with Gulf Air for long-haul services.


Source: Flight International