Bahrain Air set for government showdown talks
By Daniel Shane
Bahrain Air is set to hold showdown talks with government officials after the carrier was forced to scale back on a number of its routes, it was reported.
Over the last few weeks, the Gulf airline has cancelled services to Dammam and Dhaka, while flights to Amman, Beirut, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kathmandu, Khartoum, Kuwait and Thiruvananthaparum have all been pared.
The airline did not provide a reason for the reduction in services, but CEO Richard Nuttall told Gulf Daily News that Bahrain Air executives would be meeting with Civil Aviation Affairs officials in an attempt to resolve the matter.
"We have issues with [Civil Aviation Affairs] - something that I cannot yet talk about - but we hope to resolve them soon," Nuttall told the newspaper.
"We are meeting with the authorities later this week to see what can be done. Hopefully, our operations will be on track soon."
He added that the airline could not resume the impacted services until it had the “required permissions” from the body.
Nuttall also dismissed unionist claims that 300 Bahrain Air employees were set to lose their jobs. "If 300 jobs are lost, it means the airline has closed down. That is not the case," he said.
In August, the Gulf kingdom’s second carrier after Gulf Air, was ordered to pay off its debts or risk suspension of its operations, its chairman said.
The Manama-based airline had failed to pay arrears owed to the Civil Aviation Affairs and other government parties, the Bahrain News Agency reported at the time.
“The airline company has also failed to pay the passenger departure taxes it had levied for a long time on behalf of the government”, the Transport Ministry had said.
In a statement carried by Arabic daily Akhbar Al Khaleej, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, chairman of Bahrain Air, said the airline has come under increasing pressure to pay off debts accrued in the wake of last year’s political unrest.
The airline has also previously said that it would “seriously” consider a merger with Gulf Air in its attempt to draw a line under its financial difficulties.