Gulf Air to resume flights to Iran and Iraq
Gulf Air will resume its services to Iran and Iraq from 20 September 2012 following the Bahrain Government's approval.
Flights to Baghdad, Erbil, Najaf and Basra in Iraq and Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran will begin progressively between 20 September and 28 October 2012 subject to final approvals by the civil aviation authorities of the respective countries.
Announcing the news today, Gulf Air chief executive officer Samer Majali said: “We are glad to be resuming our operations to Iran and Iraq. I am sure this will be a welcoming news for thousands of Iranians and Iraqis living and working in Bahrain and the GCC countries as well as the business community for whom the direct flights will be a great advantage.”
He continued, “We were the first and only full-service GCC carrier to operate into Baghdad back in 1976. Again, we were the first carrier to restart our operations in 2009, which received overwhelming support from travellers with most of our flights flying to full capacity. However we had to suspend the flights in 2011 due to unavoidable circumstances but were confident that we will resume our operations soon. I am glad the time has come and we look forward to the same support from our customers.”
Analyst Saj Ahmad commented: “"Gulf Air's decision to resume flights to Iran and Iraq across four cities in each country is a big commitment and one that has arguably been a long time coming. Iraq in particular has already seen a number of airlines rapidly take up slots at the busiest airports like Najaf, Bagdad and Basra, especially low cost airlines like flydubai - so it will be interesting to see whether Gulf Air can carve out a niche here given its significantly higher operating costs.
As for Iran, the flights here will provide an alternative to the incumbent Iran Air and Mahan Air, both of whom have struggled to get parts for their aircraft, whereas Gulf Air has no such issues. They could conceivably build on the links between to the two large Shia-Muslim dominated populaces and give Iran Air a good run for their money as well as grabbing lucrative market share.”
Ahmad added: “Given the breadth of Gulf Air's flight resumptions and planned increases on some of the eight cities to daily services, the airline will have to match that expanse by offering not just competitive fares, but they'll also need to slash costs. They aren't the only player in town and there are, arguably, better run GCC airlines that provide more bang for their buck than Gulf Air does. But this is great news for people wanting to travel to Iran and Iraq - the added travel possibilities will further cement the GCC's position as the most active air traffic and fastest growing region in the world for a long time yet."