Gulf Air is to undertake a fleet reduction next year as part of a re-organisation to help the carrier cope with a large fall in passenger traffic.

The airline's president and chief executive Ibrahim al-Hamer says that the fleet size will be reduced by four aircraft to 26 units in response to a "serious downturn in the airline's traffic". He adds: "The reduced capacity and operations will almost certainly result in the closure of some stations and a reduction of flights throughout our network to maximise yield and maintain load factors to minimise losses."

Although Gulf Air suffered only a 6% year-on-year fall in passengers carried in September, Hamer says that things deteriorated in October. "The first two weeks of October show declines of 20.4% in passengers, 10.4% in load factor and 25.6% in revenue passenger kilometres," he says. "These are below break-even levels."

Gulf Air, owned equally by the governments of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing types comprising 12 A320s, four A330s (plus two on short-term leases with TAM), five A340s and eight Boeing 767s. The airline recorded a net loss of $98 million last year, and had hoped to halve its losses this year after a $160 million cash injection from the four owner governments. Consultants Simat Helliesen and Eichner have been appointed to make recommendations "for restoring the carrier's profitability".

Meanwhile, Kuwait Airways is further cutting services following a fall in demand. Two weekly services to London are being dropped until the end of November, along with flights to Bombay and Delhi. Kuwait has already cut flights to some Arab destinations, but is resuming services to destinations in Pakistan.

Neighbouring flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines has seen bookings on flights to the USA fall by 50% since 11 September, while those to Europe have fallen by 30%.

Source: Flight International