Bahraini national carrier Gulf Air is moving all base maintenance for its fleet in-house, saying that the switch will reduce costs, increase aircraft availability and create opportunities for third-party MRO custom.
Chief executive Samer Majali says that "in-sourcing is a key part of our overall business strategy" to achieve "technical self-reliance and self-sufficiency", and that the long-planned move was a "major milestone" for the airline.
Gulf Air will take over responsibility for fleet technical management and "undertake base maintenance of its entire fleet completely in-house".
According to Flightglobal's ACAS database, the carrier currently operates 37 aircraft, comprising Airbus A320, A330, A340, Embraer 175 and E-190 aircraft, as well as one leased Boeing 737-700 from Swiss-based Private Air. Some 20 A330s plus 16 787s are on order.
Conducting the technical support in-house will create "significant" and "much wanted" cost reductions at a time when such savings were "very important" for the company, says Majali.
"We aspire that soon Bahrain has its own full-fledged MRO entity that will not only take care of Gulf Air fleet's maintenance but also undertake fleet maintenance for other airlines, and thus make Bahrain an aviation MRO hub in the region," he says.
Majali adds that he sees a "potential opportunity" to recruit more local technical staff in the "near future".
Jamal Hashim, director engineering and airworthiness, says that the in-house MRO operations would improve the airline's safety and airworthiness standards through "tighter control and improved compliance". This would lead to greater dispatch reliability, aircraft availability and, in turn, more flights and greater on-time performance.
Gulf Air plans to open a three-bay hangar for its Gulf Technics MRO joint venture with Singapore Airlines' maintenance arm, SIA Engineering (SIAEC), at Bahrain International airport in the first quarter of 2014.
This partnership was not mentioned in Gulf Air's latest statement, however, and the company could not immediately be reached for comment.