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Mon 26 Mar 2012 12:11 PM

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EXCLUSIVE: Bahrain Air eyes India tie-up

Embattled Gulf carrier hopes to sign deal before end of year

EXCLUSIVE: Bahrain Air eyes India tie-up
CEO Chris Nuttall is eager to crack the Indian market.

Bahrain Air is hoping to sign a codeshare agreement with an Indian carrier in the next six to nine months in a bid to boost its number of services to Indian cities, the firm’s CEO has said.

The Gulf state’s second flag carrier has been in talks with five Indian airlines on the possibility of a deal, which it could sign before the end of the year, Richard Nuttall said.

“I think [a codeshare agreement] might make sense for us, particularly to India,” he told Arabian Business.

“We have had meetings with at least five different Indian carriers who have individually advised that they would be open to some level of cooperation and to feeding traffic into each others’ networks.

“A tie up could open up many more cities [for us]. Equally the Indian carrier could sell from all his cities to anywhere on the Bahrain Air network.”

He added that the airline was in the process of upgrading its electronic booking system, which would eventually allow it sell through global distribution systems and communicate with other carriers.

A deal was unlikely to occur before the systems upgrade was completed, he said.

“At the moment, our reservation system does not talk to the reservation systems of other carriers, but we are upgrading this capability. Once we do that we’re then in a position to start doing interline agreements very quickly. That should take six to nine months.”

Launched in 2008 as a low cost airline, privately-held Bahrain Air is yet to turn a profit.

The carrier, which has since changed its business model to full service, was hit particularly hard by last year’s regional unrest, which forced it close some routes and reduce its fleet to just four aircraft.

Having recently acquired the traffic rights to India from Gulf Air, the company is now focusing on Indian travelers in order to boost revenues.

Earlier this month it launched its newest route from Bahrain to Trivandrum in the Indian state of Kerala, with four flights weekly and plans to increase to seven by the summer.

The airline currently flies to four Indian cities, but is hoping to add a series of new destinations in the future.

“One of our strongest markets is the Indian subcontinent,” said Nuttall. “If you look at Bahrain, 350,000, a third of the population, are from Kerala, so there is huge demand [for flights].

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