Gulf Air expanding Bahrain network to Entebbe, Juba and Rome; flydubai and United newest airlines at airport

Bahrain Airport Co CEO, Donald Dewar, talks to anna.aero managing editor, Ross Falconer, during a visit to our lavish entertainment facilities at Routes in Berlin. Dewar explained that expansion is pressing ahead to raise capacity from 9 million to 13.5 million.  You can read the interview in full here .

While events in Egypt had a dramatic impact on passenger numbers passing through the country’s airports due to the importance of the leisure market, Bahrain’s airport traffic has taken less of a hit despite the country’s unrest this year which led to the high-profile cancelling of this year’s Formula 1 Grand Prix in the country. When anna.aero last looked at Bahrain in mid-2008 passenger numbers were still rising fast thanks in part to the emergence of newcomer Bahrain Air, which had launched flights that April.

Bahrain Airport traffic 1998-2010 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: Bahrain International Airport

Even before the civilian unrest started in mid-February passenger numbers during the winter season had been down year-on-year between 4% and 10% at Bahrain International Airport. In March year-on-year traffic was down 28%. Since then traffic has picked up gradually with April traffic down 23%, May traffic down 16% and June traffic down 11%. In July, traffic was down just 8% compared with July 2010.

Bahrain Airport seasonality Monthly passengers 2006-2011

Source: Bahrain International Airport

New route in June: Gulf Air adds its first destination in Afghanistan – four weekly flights between Bahrain and Kabul with 136-seat A320s. The ribbon is cut by Gulf Air’s CEO Samer Majali (left-most ribbon cutter) while Bahrain Airport Co’s CEO Gordon Dewar stands, just behind Majali.

New route in June: Gulf Air adds its first destination in Afghanistan – four weekly flights between Bahrain and Kabul with 136-seat A320s. The ribbon is cut by Gulf Air’s CEO Samer Majali (left-most ribbon cutter) while Bahrain Airport Co’s CEO Gordon Dewar stands, just behind Majali.

Gulf Air expanding; Bahrain Air still going

According to OAG data Gulf Air currently serves 46 destinations non-stop from Bahrain with its fleet of over 30 aircraft, mostly split between narrowbody and widebody Airbus aircraft but also including four Embraer E-jets. The carrier is still dominant at the airport with between 50% and 60% of seat capacity and flights. This winter sees the carrier launch new routes to Entebbe in Uganda (with four flights per week with an A319), and Rome Fiumicino (four flights per week with an A320), while next February it will start to serve Juba in South Sudan (three weekly flights with an E190).

During this summer Gulf Air added new routes to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Basra (Iraq), Copenhagen (Denmark), Geneva (Switzerland), Kabul (Afghanistan), Milan Malpensa (Italy), and Nairobi (Kenya). Several of the European routes are operated by PrivatAir using 737s.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
Gulf Air 58.3% 54.5% 46
Bahrain Air 8.5% 8.0% 12
Qatar Airways 5.6% 5.8% 1
Emirates 2.6% 4.0% 1
Etihad Airways 3.5% 3.8% 1
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 October 2011

Bahrain Air is still operating (unlike for example other relatively new local carriers such as Sama in Saudi Arabia and Wataniya Airways in Kuwait) with a fleet of five narrowbody Airbus, and recently re-launched service to Riyadh. In July it introduced flights to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport (four times weekly) and currently serves 12 destinations non stop from Bahrain.

New route in July: Bahrain Air launched its first European destination with Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen. Indirect competition at Istanbul Atatürk comes from Turkish Airlines’ daily Bahrain service and Gulf Air’s five flights a week.

New route in July: Bahrain Air launched its first European destination with Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen. Indirect competition at Istanbul Atatürk comes from Turkish Airlines’ daily Bahrain service and Gulf Air’s five flights a week.

flydubai and United most recent new airline additions

A total of 28 airlines are currently operating scheduled services to Bahrain. In December 2009 flydubai became the latest airline based in the region to serve the airport when it began double-daily flights from Dubai, which has now been increased to 17 per week. The route is now served by Gulf Air, Bahrain Air, Emirates and flydubai with a total of 100 weekly departures.

The newest addition to Bahrain’s airline portfolio is United Airlines which started services from Washington Dulles (via Kuwait) in April 2010 with daily flights using a 777. United is the only US carrier to serve Bahrain at present, while European carriers include British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines. Asian carriers with a significant presence include Air India Express, Cathay Pacific and Jet Airways, all of which operate at least daily flights to the airport.


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