By Shane McGinley
Carrier is currently brokering US$492m government bailout deal as it cuts losses, staff
Bahrain's ailing national carrier Gulf Air may be forced to hire 100 unemployed Bahraini pilots despite plans to slash its heacount by as much as 1,800 as part of a proposed US$492m government bailout deal, it was reported.
A parliamentary committee has asked MPs to agree to a new proposal to hire unemployed local pilots, despite a plan to try and reduce losses at the national carrier, said Gulf Daily News.
“We don't want to see those qualified Bahraini pilots moving elsewhere either to regional or foreign competitors because then we would have lost loyal Bahrainis, spent money unnecessarily on training them and allowed our competitors a marginal cutting edge,” parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee chairman MP Ali Al Ateesh was quoted as saying.
"The airline has lost a lot of Bahrainis who are now leaders in regional and foreign airlines. We don't want to see more jump ship."
The move has been supported by Gulf Air Trade Union president Habib Al Nabbool, who said Bahrainis should be given priority over other nationalities in terms of promotion.
“Bahrainis have to be given the chance rather than the Europeans or Asians we currently have in the airline… We don't have anything against European or Asian captains, but they are not as loyal as Bahrainis who in the end don't want to leave the country and leave their families or friends behind if competitors present them with a better offer," he said.
Gulf Air has been struggling to compete against GCC rivals amid rising fuel prices and declining passenger numbers. The carrier was also hit hard by last year’s regional political instability.
The carrier, which once had the biggest network in the Gulf, has axed several routes from its network in recent months as it moves to stem its losses.
It has also slashed the number of its destinations from 120 to 40 and has said as many as 1,800 staff could be laid off as part of a deal to secure a BHD185m (US$490.8m) bailout.
The carrier also cut its order for Boeing's Dreamliner and revised a deal with Airbus in November, as part of a move to restructure its fleet as it tries to cope with a tough market.
Samer Majali, the CEO bought in to restructure the airline’s operations in 2009, resigned in November. Majali will remain in his position until the end of the year, the airline said last month.
A representative from Gulf Air did not immediately respond when contacted by Arabian Business for comment.