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Sat 23 Jan 2010 12:56 PM

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Bahrain Air eyes 1m passengers in 2010

Bahraini carrier eyes new destinations including Bangladesh & Turkey; targets break-even in 2011.

Low-cost carrier Bahrain Air plans to grow the number of its passengers to one million this year due to new destinations and targets break-even during 2011, an executive said.

Bahrain Air carried some 750,000 passengers during 2009, about 200,000 less its initial forecast, Ibrahim Alhamer, the carrier's managing director told Reuters on the sidelines of the Bahrain air show.

Passenger traffic in the Middle East has coped with the global economic slowdown better than other regions, but large fleet ordering programmes funded by governments in the world's largest oil-producing region, and airlines, have significantly reduced prices to keep up load factors.

"Though there is growth, there is a lot of capacity being offered in the markets by start-ups and existing airlines adding more frequencies to protect their market share," Alhamer said.

"I believe that 2010 will be as difficult as 2009 and all airlines will have to struggle to keep their market share and sustain their operations," he said.

He said Bahrain Air plans to add Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh, and Istanbul in Turkey as new destinations during 2010, which would help the airline reach its one million passenger target.

Bahrain Air is a small regional airline that mostly competes with the country's national carrier, Gulf Air. It operates six A319s and A320s it has leased from Airbus.

It has ordered two A319s to be delivered in 2012 or 2013, and has order another two planes, either A319s or A320s. The carrier has also signed an option to order an additional two Airbus planes, Alhamer said.

"Not soon, we want to see how the market behaves first," Alhamer said when asked when the company could firm up this option to an order.

"We think we will break even in 2011," he added. (Reuters)

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