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Gulf Air to unveil new carrier at ATM

Gulf Air will formally introduce an all economy subsidiary at Arabian Travel Market as it seeks to keep attention focused on its three year turnaround plan.

Gulf Air (GF) is promising to take the wraps off its new all economy airline at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which starts on May 6.

The name and logo were being kept under wraps as the show approached, but Gulf Air’s CEO, James Hogan, made clear that although it will be all economy, the new carrier will not be a ‘no frills’ airline. So-called no frills carriers have taken the US and Europe by storm, offering cut price seats by reducing staff levels and opting not to serve complementary food and drinks on board.

Hogan, however, is not convinced that the approach would work here and he pledges that the new carrier will still be a full service offering.

“No frills is not appropriate on seven hour hauls. Customers are not prepared to start paying for their own food and drinks during longer flight segments,” Hogan told ITP.net. “The low cost phenomena works best on two to four hour stretches.”

Another factor against the no frills approach, he said, was that low cost carriers in the US and Europe tend to sell a large proportion of their tickets online and at the very last minute. Consumer behaviour in the Middle East, he pointed out, is not the same.

Expect the formal unveiling of the new carrier on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Gulf Air is also using ATM as an opportunity to introduce new products and further publicise its three year turnaround plan.

One of the new offerings is Business Plus, a bundle of services for passengers flying business in and out of Abu Dhabi. The package includes ‘fast track’ passage through airport procedures and transportation from Abu Dhabi Airport to any location in the UAE.

In terms of performance, Hogan said that Gulf Air met its first quarter targets and was charging until SARS fears hit March traffic. He admitted that travel to Asia plummeted in April, but decent traffic on European routes kept seat occupancy at around 60%.

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