Aviation in Bahrain
For many of us airports have become a second home. Travelling from one place to another, whether for work or pleasure, flying is a norm for almost everyone. For Bahrain, the dream of an established aviation industry was that of Freddie Bosworth, an ex-Royal Air Force pilot, Bahraini businessman Hussain Yateem, and their friends who helped found the Gulf Aviation Company, which resulted in the birth of Gulf Air, the Kingdom’s national carrier. Bahrain’s airport also expanded, going from a small desert landing strip to the spacious vicinity it is today and has resulted in Bahrain hosting more transit passengers than had ever been imagined before, making it a prominent transit hub and popular destination for business and leisure. Over the years the aviation industry has witnessed vast growth and development, and is currently under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Bahrain’s Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications.
Bahrain saw its first ever plane touchdown in 1923 when three RAF planes flew to the Kingdom and Deputy Ruler, at the time, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was given a flight tour. That first flight opened the portal for aviation in Bahrain, and by 1950 Muharraq established the international airport. That same year Freddie Bosworth and Hussain Yateem set up the Gulf Aviation Company, which really was the turning point in Bahrain’s rise in the aviation industry. Eleven years later, in 1961, Bahrain International Airport was officially opened under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, after which the aviation industry in Bahrain took flight and saw a great boom. In 1974, Gulf Aviation Company was also officially transitioned into Gulf Air, making it the flag carrier for four states: Bahrain, Oman, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
Having commenced operations in 1950, Gulf Air was one of the first commercial airlines established in the Middle East. Today, Gulf Air is a major international carrier operating one of the largest networks in the Middle East, with double daily flights or more to 10 regional cities, in addition to select destinations in the Indian Subcontinent and Europe, from its hub at Bahrain International Airport.
Renowned for its traditional Arabian hospitality, evidenced by the airline’s signature family and business friendly products, Gulf Air is committed to being an industry leader and developing products and services that reflect the evolving needs and aspirations of its passengers.
Gulf Air connects Bahrain to the world and, as such, is a key national infrastructure asset, serving as a powerful driver for the economy and supporting the Kingdom’s on-going economic growth.
As Title Sponsor of the FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX Gulf Air supported Bahrain’s inaugural Gulf Air Formula One Grand Prix in 2004. Over the course of the three-day event, the Formula One team’s alone took over 2000 flights, with a positive domino effect on Bahrain’s economy. The event has now become an important part of Bahrain’s social calendar and welcomes a multitude of visitors from across the region and globe.
The efforts to make Bahrain’s airport services the finest in the region were further elevated at the launch of the Duty Free in 2005 and earned awards such as the Best Airport/Land-based Retailer of the Year as well as the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year by a Retailer at the 21st Frontier Awards in Cannes.
In 2007, the Duty Free once again was named the best in the world for marketing by the Cannes Duty Free Festival. Big changes were brought about in 2008 with the establishment of Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), a subsidiary of Mumtalakat Holding Company, which was responsible for the expansion of Bahrain International Airport, making it one of the fastest growing airports in the world.
BAC has been responsible for elevating the airport’s infrastructure, facilities, and services to further solidify the airport’s competitiveness in the region and make sure it is a convenient aviation hub. The company’s vision is also in line with that of the Kingdom, to have the local aviation industry serves as a key contributor to the economy with further growth by sustaining commercial and commercial excellence, as per the BAC company profile. BAC has also launched the Airport Modernization Program (AMP) in partnership with the Ministry of Transport. This program is aimed to better the airport’s infrastructure and services, in addition to increasing passenger and cargo capacity. BAC’s efforts have earned it prestigious awards such as the SKYTRAXX Middle East’s Best Airport Staff and ranked Bahrain International Airports in the SKYTRAXX World’s Top 100 Airports.
Most recently, the Civil Aviation Affairs, in association with Farnborough International, hosted its third biennial Bahrain International Airshow in 2014, for which Gulf Air was the official carrier and also had additional sponsorship from Batelco. Attracting a large and global audience of visitors to the Sakhir Air Base, the air show hosts not only impressive fleets of planes from around the world, but also some of Bahrain’s leading businesses and government organisations such as the Royal Bahrain Air Force, Economic Development Board, Alba, Bapco, Batelco, and Bahrain Airport Company – not to mention our national carrier, Gulf Air. 2016 will once again see Bahrain host the Bahrain International Air Show from January 21-23 and will offer guests a truly impressive air show as well activities on the ground for all to enjoy.
Over the years, the aviation industry in Bahrain has continued to develop, expand and markedly improve. Whether it was the expansion of the airport building, the number of flights added by Gulf Air, or the airline’s onboard products and service offering, aviation in Bahrain has become much more than just a business that transports people from one place to another.
They say airlines are the truest reflections of economies. Indeed, Gulf Air has progressively rationalized its operations over the past 2 years in its mission to realize commercial sustainability. Progressively improving business results have reduced the airline’s financial losses and, today, Gulf Air’s strategic direction has shifted – a sure sign of its ongoing recovery and a permanent, positive change in its financial trajectory. Alongside this, the airline’s strategic direction encompasses fleet developments to cater to future network and capacity enhancement and fleet modernization.
Connecting people from all walks of life, countries, and businesses, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s aviation infrastructure: Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Airport Services, Gulf Aviation Academy and the aviation industry as a whole has become one of the most fundamental contributors to Bahrain’s ongoing growth and progress.
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