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Thu 2 Jul 2009 03:36 PM

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Bjorn Naf steps down as Gulf Air CEO

Swiss executive to leave post soon; Bahrain-based carrier declines to elaborate on his departure.

Bjorn Naf steps down as Gulf Air CEO
NAF DEPARTS: The Swiss executive has announced he will leave Gulf Air soon. (ITP Images)

Gulf Air CEO Bjorn Naf is leaving the airline to “pursue other interests”, it was announced on Thursday.

The Swiss executive will leave the post soon, making way for Samer Majali, who himself resigned as CEO of Royal Jordanian Airlines days prior to this unexpected announcement.

In the interim, Gulf Air chairman Talal Al Zain will manage the carrier temporarily as executive chairman until Majali takes charge.

When contacted by Arabian Business, a Gulf Air spokesperson declined to elaborate on the reasons for Naf’s departure.

Since taking charge of Bahrain’s national carrier in 2007, Naf has been heavily criticised by politicians claiming he was failing to resurrect the ailing airline. His job involved cutting costs, routes and employee numbers to stem $1m daily losses.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Björn Näf for his leadership over the last two years and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” Al Zain said. “Moving forward, we have important plans for the future of Gulf Air and we believe Samer is the right leader to take the airline forward as we move into the next phase of our strategy to rebuild the business.”

He added Majali was an ideal appointment following his work at Royal Jordanian. During his tenure, the carrier secured membership to airline alliance oneworld, and carried out a privatisation.

Majali also served as chairman of the International Air Transport Association and president of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation.

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The Don 11 years ago

From my experience as an employee with Royal Jordanian almost 12 years ago, Samer is a good CEO but would also wish him all best of luck in his new position as my experience with Gulf Air as one of my clients tells me that changing the CEO won't solve the airline problems. Gulf Air needs fundamental change internally at workforce level following the fundamental change at the shareholders level to unlock the potential of the a long terms successful airline. First battle is job security for under performing staff and fighting internal pressure groups.

Bahrain Expert - the Arab game with foreign brainpower 11 years ago

The sacking of the Gulf Air CEO is part of a normal pattern of doing business in Bahrain (and other GCC countries, I might add). A lot of politics and intrigues amongst the (local Arab) shareholders are going on. They hardly know what the business is all about but they all want to have a say (because they can). Finally the CEO is sacrificed, a new future scapegoat is hired (the new CEO) and the game starts anew. And the Arab view of things is in order.

The Don 11 years ago

What a funny nick name and what a rude comment. First of all there is no official announcement that who was sacked. Knowing Gulf Air, the case may have to do with the government inability or readiness to give him support on certain critical elements of his recovery plans for the airline which for any CEO means there is no success and best thing to do is to leave and cut short the career damage that will come with the failure of his plan Secondly sacking a CEO is not an exclusive Arab Game nor it was exclusively developed for them. The fact is they have (in Bahrain and GCC) learned it from our good friends from UK who taught people in how to play these corporate politics

Aamir 11 years ago

Having lived and worked in Bahrain for 3 years and worked in the GCC for the past 16 years, I can very well say that Gulf Air is one of the worst airlines operating in the GCC, in terms of over all service. As mentioned by somebody in this forum, the problem is with staff at all levels (Majority of the staff are incompetent and inefficient). I had a few friends in GF who have moved on to Emirates or Qatar Air because they could not stand the lousy work culture. My friends use to tell me that it is the only airline where even expat underperformers are retained because they have connections or due to reasons that I cannot write here. The Bahraini staff also don’t care because they know that GF cannot sack locals for any reason, and they also have a trade union to back them. I am waiting to see CEO replacement headline in another year or so!

Ahmed 8 years ago

Having worked with Bjorn extensively through multiple organizations he has now arrived in Hong Kong to oversee the operations of Metrojet a business jet operator in Hong Kong.

I can confidently say that he is not a leader and since his arrival at Metrojet (approx 1 year since Oct, 2010) there has been over 90 employees leaving the company which has a total size of 260 employees. A 30+% turnover in a medium sized company can easily ruin a company.

He has had trouble expanding the company and since his entry into the organization there has nothing but trouble and few strategic or sales developments.

Bjorn should re-evaluate his career choices and focus on where his expertise. Remember, business aviation and airline are two completely different industries.