Gulf Air Wants To Resume US Flights

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Bahrain-based Gulf Air used to be the biggest and most global airline in the Gulf region. This was when politics in the region were different, and before we saw the development of airlines in the UAE, Qatar, etc.

Over the past decade Gulf Air has largely struggled to compete with their peers in the region. The airline had an outdated fleet, and didn’t have a global route network.

However, the airline is about a year into a five year transformation, and it seems to be working really well.

For example, the airline recently started taking delivery of Boeing 787-9s, which feature excellent Apex Suites in business class. The airline has six of these in their fleet, with a further 10 to be delivered.

Now the airline has some major growth aspirations, once again.

Gulf Air wants to resume flights to the US

Gulf Air’s CEO, Kresimir Kucko, has stated that the airline wants to launch flights to the US within three years:

“We will be operating in the coming years more in Europe and also the Far East. Hopefully, in the coming two, maximum three years, we would be able to open flights to the US.”

The airline flew to New York and Houston back in the day (if I recall correctly they actually flew from Bahrain to New York to Houston), though those routes are long gone, and currently the airline operates flights exclusively to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Logically you’d think that if Gulf Air were to resume flights, New York would be the obvious choice, given that it’s where just about every airline seems to want to fly.

However, Bahrain’s oil minister has also stated that the country is looking at developing closer ties with Houston, and was looking at setting up a nonstop flight. So either route seems like a real possibility.

The New York route would cover a distance of about 6,600 miles, while the Houston route would be an ultra long haul, at nearly 8,000 miles.

How does Gulf Air expect to succeed in the US?

Is Gulf Air considering resuming US flights because they actually think they can make money flying there, or are they doing it for prestige and/or business ties?

Gulf Air recognizes that they’re a boutique airline, and that’s a strength they want to play on. As the CEO himself admits:

“You can’t compete with airlines that are bigger in size, volume or with prices. You can only compete in quality … I can compete with any airline, no matter the size, with the quality of my product. That’s the battle I willingly participate with a chance to win.

We want to offer our passengers traditional Arabian hospitality. Which for that to really put true meaning into practice, you really need to offer something unique.”

I totally appreciate a CEO who wants to invest in the product, though he also acknowledges that his airline can’t compete in terms of schedule or price.

The reality is that Gulf Air’s biggest competitors are also known for their excellent products, whether we’re talking about Emirates’ A380 business class or Qatar Airways’ Qsuites. I doubt they’re going to find that people are willing to pay a premium to fly Gulf Air over those airlines.

So adding service to the US doesn’t exactly seem like a money-making recipe.

Bottom line

I wouldn’t take Gulf Air resuming flights to the US as a sure bet, since a lot can change, especially since this is potentially still a couple of years off.

If Gulf Air does resume flights to the US, it seems like it wouldn’t be done to turn a direct profit, but rather to improve energy ties between the two countries. If that’s the case, it sounds like a Bahrain to Houston flight would be most likely.

Do you think Gulf Air will follow through with launching flights to the US?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments
  1. Hopefully Gulf Air will partner with a US-based airline (I recall they used to partner with AA) when they start nonstop flights to the US. If Houston and/or NYC are their target nonstop destinations, then maybe United Airlines would make more sense to be in a partnership with.

  2. Gulf Air really got screwed over once Abu Dhabi, Oman, and Qatar all decided they wanted to start their own airlines…

  3. I have fond memories of Gulf Air. Back before the ME3, my wife and I flew them (with AA) from Chicago through Bahrain to Delhi on a school break. Our first time traveling beyond Europe. I especially remember the novelty (to me) of the navigation screen showing the relative bearing to Mecca.

    I hope they pull off a North America route.

  4. I was a fanatic of Gulf Air. From Dubai business class to Bangkok, Rome for me were a fraction of the cost compared to other airlines. No more since they aced Rome some years back. Now that I’m often flying to Texas this would be a good alternative in hand, hope soon rather than later.

  5. Gulf Air needs to re-establish its network t make sure they won’t fly half-empty aircraft to the USA.

  6. Gulf Air and TWA used to jointly operate a flight to JFK until TWA sold off its LHR routes in 1991. They used an L1011 together.

  7. I flew Gulf Air in 1996. Emirates had just started operations out of DXB and there was no sign of Etihad Qatar or Oman. Gulf Air was the king of the region.

    My routing was MAA-JED-DXB-MAA.

    Gulf Air flew me like this

    MAA-MCT-BAH-JED on the outbound

    JED-DOH-DXB

    DXB-BAH-MCT-MAA inbound!!

    I was actually delighted since I got to see so many airports and experience so many take off and landings at such a young age!

  8. Gulf Air did do Larnaca some days and non-stop to BAH on other days.

    They also did a Geneva stop for a little while.

    The IAH add-on was always fun because some travel agents used to sell the JFK-IAH and since that was cabotage we couldn’t allow the pax to travel.

    They were generally a mess on the good days and most of the premium cabins were filled with “friends of the family.” They had two A340’s (A4O-LA and LB) which had maintenance issues and we even had one stuck at JFK for a week because of an engine replacement.

    I was also told that there was a scandal involving ground handling where they were overcharged on paper and someone was pocketing the difference but who knows.

  9. Literally flew them last night to LHR. Their Apex Suite is amazing, and the soft product is equally as good.

    As my partner remarked “this is far better than BA’s first class…”

    I will definitely consider them for future travel!

  10. First and only time I flew with a falcon uncaged in first class in the old days…

  11. I worked for Gulf Hotels Bahrain in the 1980s. (Division of GF) My first, first class trip was on the 5* TriStar. The airline in those days were leaders in inflight service. The standards and service were all based on BOAC. This is in their blood. Stand up bar, incredible seat pitch in all classes. It was like the glamor days of flying. Where did Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, and Oman Air get their ideas from? Gulf Air. I wish them every success and would love to see them lead the way once again. What a privilege to have experienced such a time.

  12. FYI the B789 cannot depart with a full payload from Bahrain to Houston so it is highly unlikely that this will happen. The B789 can operate to Washington DC or New York. The former has much less competition and offers higher yields for GF to take advantage of. They only need to operate 4 weekly flights maximum to IAD nonstop and nothing more. It will lose a bit of money but much less versus flying to JFK !

  13. Early 90’s Gulf Air partnered with Canadian Airlines (ex CP Air). Great flights to and from Canada. They paid overnight hotel in London if you knew someone. Saw many live theatre productions whilst travelling back and forth.

    Might be interested in their new routes if they find a good partner or alliance.

  14. I don’t do much flying (thankfully!) but way back in the late 1990s (after the first gulf war but before the second) I flew Gulf Air on a short Bahrain-Kuwait flight. It was kind of strange since I felt like I was the only non-Arab person on the flight (by looks and dress).

    Can’t recall much else about the short flight.

  15. I flew Gulf Air from Bahrain to Peshawar Pakistan..It was a great flight. I had to fly back on PIA because all the other carriers stopped flying in due to rockets being lobbed into the airport every day. I gained a lot of respect for them in making that decision.

  16. The route will make sense for the company as it also caters to a lot of connecting population originating from indian Sub Continent. With the Jet Airways slump, all connecting airlines are seeing huge improvements for the route network to EU and NA.

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