Gulf Air is reconsidering an earlier plan to retire its Airbus A330-200 long-haul aircraft as the Bahraini flag carrier's new Boeing 787-9s are placed into service.

The airline originally intended to keep the six A330-200s operational only until all 10 787-9s arrived, but now believes there might be benefits in retaining them for a longer period, although no decision has been reached, CEO Krešimir Kučko said Nov. 15 at the Bahrain International Air Show. Three of the 787-9s have been delivered so far.

If the A330s are retained, “We won’t use them on premium routes … but we would like to keep our consistency of quality,” Kučko said.

The airline is also considering acquiring dedicated cargo aircraft for the first time as it continues to expand.

“We’re an island, so obviously the need for cargo is always there,” Kučko said. “It could be a joint venture, or wet- or dry-leased aircraft.”

Acquiring dedicated freighters remained some years in the future, he said, “but we have it in our strategy to introduce them at some point.”

In the near-term, the airline will continue to expand east and west, maintaining a balanced route network, Kučko said. At the same time, the carrier will deepen its primarily regional network by adding more frequencies to existing destinations.

In January 2019, the airline hopes to launch a stopover project with the Bahrain Tourism & Exhibition Authority and other organizations aimed at encouraging passengers passing through Bahrain on the airline’s services to remain for several days.

The past year has been one of considerable change for Gulf Air, with new aircraft—the 787-9 and A320neo—starting to arrive in what will eventually be an almost complete re-fleeting exercise. The arrival of the new aircraft also allowed the company to introduce the new Falcon Gold business cabin, which Kučko said is similar to a first-class cabin in terms of space and seat quality.

Alan Dron