Gulf Air seeks Airbus, Boeing aircraft delays, acting CEO says

Majority of fleet could fly by year-end

  
Gulf Air's first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner arrives at Bahrain International Airport in Muharraq, Bahrain April 27, 2018.

Gulf Air's first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner arrives at Bahrain International Airport in Muharraq, Bahrain April 27, 2018.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

DUBAI- Bahrain's Gulf Air is in talks with Airbus AIR.PA and Boeing BA.N to delay some aircraft deliveries as the pandemic continues to distrupt global travel, its acting chief executive said on Sunday.

Airlines around the world have pushed back deliveries and cancelled orders, expecting a years-long recovery from the pandemic that has crushed global travel demand.

State-owned Gulf Air expects Airbus A320neo deliveries to be put on hold until 2022, though it hopes to receive at least three larger A321neos this year, Acting CEO Waleed Abdulhameed Al Alawi told Reuters.

It is also in talks with Boeing over a new delivery schedule for five 787-9 Dreamliners it has on order, though it will receive some this year, he said.

Airbus and Boeing declined to comment.

Unlike some other carriers, Gulf Air lacks a domestic market to cushion it against international border closures.

The airline is currently flying to around half of the 49 destinations it operated to before the pandemic and expects it could resume flying to all destinations by the end of 2023.

"We are very optimistic that things will improve and that we will be utilising most of our fleet from now until the end of the year," Al Alawi said.

"We think we will weather the storm and will come out of the situation strong. We are very positive. It is only a question of time but for sure we will remain in the market."

He said he was hopeful the availability of vaccines would help the public regain confidence in travel.

The airline last year cut an undisclosed number of jobs and according to a government bond prospectus, seen by Reuters, received 36 million dinars ($95.6 million) from its state owner.

It also cancelled its order for 10 Airbus A220s, signed when it was the Bombardier BBDb.TO CSeries.

($1 = 0.3766 Bahraini dinars)

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Frances Kerry) ((Alexander.Cornwell@thomsonreuters.com;))

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