Interview: Krešimir Kucko
How is Gulf Air planning to grow its operations?
KREŠIMIR KUCKO: The year 2018 has been one of significant change for Gulf Air, with the acquisition of five new Boeing 787 Dreamliners helping us to add six new destinations and increase the number of departures by 200 per week. Gulf Air also underwent a major rebranding that year. We are continuing this journey to 2023, at which point we expect to have 39 new aircraft and a diverse offering.
One of our main strategies is to increase the amount of stopover traffic that we handle. Stopovers continue all year and are more predictable and stable than origin and destination traffic, which is highly dependent on location-specific factors such as holidays and climate. We are promoting Bahrain as a tourist destination by attracting passengers to stopover in our country. We aim to be the fastest connecting airport in the region, with the target of offering connections under one hour.
In terms of our destination strategy, the first step is to consolidate the position of the airline within GCC and MENA. Routes have been added within the region and flight frequencies have been increased for select existing destinations. We have also added destinations further abroad, such as Calicut, Bangalore, Casablanca and Baku. The key is finding a niche and making sure that costs are controlled.
What further operational strategies are being implemented to ensure that the company continues posting high profit levels?
KUCKO: Cost control is the top priority to ensure profitability. To address this, the current mindset is to challenge everything. We are looking at our contracts with suppliers and examining every single item in the budget to find places where we can save. Payroll is also a large factor in this regard. We will need to hire more staff in order to expand, but we also aim to optimise our existing processes to increase productivity and do more with the same number of employees. Human resources is a key pillar of our strategy, and we plan to retrain existing staff for new positions in order to keep expertise within the company and to have our employees grow with us.
In what ways can new and existing codeshare or network agreements be used to help Gulf Air increase its competitiveness?
KUCKO: We are working on a number of new codeshares, hopefully to be completed by the end of 2018. Codeshares are useful because they add incremental revenue and help support our existing routes by filling more seats. This is an important component of the plan to boost our connecting traffic.
We are also looking at possible international airline alliances and are open to striking up a new partnership if the opportunity is right.
How do you expect the aviation industry to evolve following the opening of the new passenger terminal at Bahrain International Airport (BIA)?
KUCKO: We expect increased competition once the new BIA passenger terminal launches operations. However, Gulf Air is set to benefit from a significantly larger business lounge at the terminal, which, paired with our new aircraft fleet and roomier seats, will help boost our attractiveness to air travellers.
We are maintaining daily communications with Bahrain Airport Company to ensure that our operations are in line with the regulations as we ramp up towards this exciting new development. The processes we implement together are key to maximising the facilities being built and achieving the quality of service that passengers expect. The new terminal will unlock the chance to offer additional or enhanced services to passengers, and bringing more flights and carriers into Bahrain will open up more opportunities for new codeshares and connecting flights.
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