Bahraini parliament mulling Gulf Air’s future

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Gulf Air Airbus A340-300 taxiing at London Heathrow Airport. A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 takes off beyond. Photo - Adrian Pingstone via Wikipedia

Bahraini government has warned parliament’s rejection of a 664.3 million Bahraini dinar ($1.74 billion) payment to Gulf Air could ground the national carrier for good.

Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa and Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmad urged leading members of both chambers of parliament to take prompt action and help the ailing airline overcome its massive losses.

“Remaining passive and not making decisive moves or providing positive support will be a direct threat to Gulf Air’s capability to survive and to overcome the daunting challenges it is now facing,” the ministers said in a statement.

“The government has four options — dissolving the airline, selling it off and launching a new carrier, downsizing it or allowing it to continue in its current form,” the ministers revealed during discussions with MPs.

“Leaving the company Gulf Air without radical and critical action and positive support would be a direct threat to its ability to survive and overcome the enormous challenges it faces at present,” the parliament’s website quoted the ministers as saying.

The ministers also insisted that Gulf Air was a backbone of the national economy through its role in linking Bahrain to the world and providing jobs to thousands of people.

The lower chamber has been urging a parliamentary investigation into the company shortcomings amid reports that it could be sold to overseas buyers.

The MPs declared they understood the scope of Gulf Air’s difficulties and claimed that a new management approach would be needed.

Last month, Dubai’s leading Mashreq Bank provided an $80 million lifeline to Gulf Air to help meet working capital requirements.

Airline sources also said Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund and a major stakeholder, could also intervene to provide lifesaving funds.

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