The national flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Gulf Air, is mulling when to start direct flights again between Bahrain International Airport (BAH) and Sydney Airport (SYD). The Manama-based airline had earmarked Australia as one of the key destinations in its 2020 growth strategy.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 pushed back any Gulf Air plans for restarting Manama to Sydney flights. Between 2003 and 2007, Gulf Air offered daily flights to Sydney via a stopover in Singapore using Airbus A340-300 aircraft. Together with flights to Dublin and Johannesburg, this route was dropped in an attempt to curtail losses and streamline efficiency. We can’t help but wonder if increasing competition in the region was another factor in the ending of the route.
COVID-19 postpones flights to Australia
During a webinar in March covered by Gulf business and financial news website Zawya, Industry, Commerce, and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani spoke about why the relaunch of Manama to Sydney flights had to be postponed, saying:
“We were very close to launching…but then Australia brought in restrictions on travelers into the country, which made the plan unfeasible as at one point last year only Australians were allowed to come back, and there were many restrictions.”
The minister notes that the airline went as far as securing slots and timings, but says that it had to be postponed. “[B]ut it’s definitely coming, and now it’s just a question of timing as to how quickly we recover from COVID-19,” says Alzayani.
Bahrain Airport has remained open
While speaking at a ministerial event chaired by the Australia Bahrain Business Council and the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Alzayani talked about Gulf Air and how it had managed to keep Bahrain connected to the outside world.
Alzayani says that the airport managed to remain open on a limited schedule as other airports remained closed. “We kept Bahrain connected with the world, bringing in essential food and medical supplies,” he said.
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The GCC and Australia negotiate FTA
Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also underway, with Bahrain presiding over the talks. When speaking about the agreement’s progress, Mr. Alzayani said they were about 90% of the way there and that he hoped to have a deal before the end of the year. When speaking about a free trade agreement, the Minister said that it would open up new paths to business relations, reflecting positively on trade volumes and encouraging bilateral investment through joint ventures and projects. He then added, “We welcome Australian investors to be a part of the growing economy of Bahrain.”
An FTA between Australia and the GCC would be massive for Australian exports, and it is no wonder why Gulf Air is keen to resume flights down under. Furthermore, unlike having to rely on thirsty Airbus A340s, Gulf Air now has a fleet of seven modern Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. This should help the airline keep expenses down.
What do you think about flights between Bahrain and Sydney, and do you think it will happen this year? Please tell us what you think in the comments.