7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

MPs vote out Gulf Air board

PARLIAMENT yesterday voted to replace the entire Gulf Air board, which was only appointed last month, and tear up the contracts of two consultancy firms recruited by the airline.

The GDN reported on Monday that five MPs had submitted the proposal, arguing that neither the new board nor the consultants had sufficient commercial aviation experience.

Bahrain's national carrier lost its chief executive last week after Samer Majali's resignation - which he submitted earlier in the year - was accepted. A new board chaired by Deputy Premier Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa comprises Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed, Works Minister Essam Khalaf, Crown Prince's Court political and economic affairs adviser Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company chief executive Mahmood Al Kooheji, Essam Fakhro, Samer Al Jishi and Redha Faraj.

MP Abdulhameed Al Meer is spearheading the push to sack the consultants and the board.

"Gulf Air has suffered enough from boards lacking knowledge in the past and because of that, firms that are not specialised have been brought in to provide help - but instead of doing so, they have drained the company further," he said as parliament met yesterday.

"I can't blame Mr Majali for resigning. He was caught between the board and consultancy firms. He was there as dŽcor."

It emerged in October that Gulf Air could be dramatically downsized as part of a restructuring plan designed to reduce its losses from BD95 million to BD58m a year by 2017.

As many as 1,800 staff could be laid off under a deal put on the table by the government to secure National Assembly approval for a BD185m bailout of the loss-making carrier, while planes and routes could also be sacrificed.

Mr Al Meer said Gulf Air had already seen its destinations slashed from 120 to 40 over the years.

"Can we trust the two firms that have suggested reducing destinations and then caused Gulf Air further losses by having around 1,800 employees sacked under downsizing plans?" he asked.

Meanwhile, MP Sawsan Taqawi vowed MPs would not be deterred by the senior rank of new board members.

"Mumtalakat has appointed a new board led by a Deputy Prime Minister and ministers, but that doesn't mean that we can't vote to have it replaced," she said.

"Bahrainis are suffering in all of this and in future, when they are sacked and nothing changes in the company, the airline will have lost qualified employees, mostly Bahrainis, and it would be difficult to bring them back."

MP Ahmed Qaratta said many Bahrainis who hold or previously held senior posts at Gulf Air deserved to be board members, which would also make consultants unnecessary.

"The two firms cost the government BD8.9m, it could have been used on stronger management and experts," he said.

Al Asala Bloc president MP Abdulhaleem Murad highlighted the fast turnover of chief executives at the carrier as an example of a lack of strategy.

"Gulf Air has no strategy and the change of chief executives over the past five years shows that no-one knows who is running Gulf Air," he said.

MP Adel Al Asoomi claimed Gulf Air was the only airline in the world with 24 vice-presidents.

"British Airways, which has 520 aircraft, only has eight vice-presidents. But Gulf Air - which has a fleet just five per cent of that size - has 24 vice-presidents, each earning BD14,000 monthly.

"The question is why have Alba chairman Mahmood Al Kooheji run Gulf Air, when he is not experienced in commercial aviation? The man is excellent in his field, but in commercial aviation he has zero experience.

"Works Minister Essam Khalaf, who everyone respects and loves, is a new board member. If a new runway is needed he would be excellent, but not to run an airline."

However, Minister of State for Parliament and Shura Council Abdulaziz Al Fadhel urged MPs to give the new board time. Parliament's decision will now be referred to the Cabinet. [email protected]

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