no longer onboard
News wires and Akhbar Al Khaleej were reporting today that Abu Dhabi is pulling out from Gulf Air, which until recent past was the national airline of 4 governments: AbuDhabi, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. Qatar pulled out first, and Oman was about to follow suit last year, but a last minute intercession by Zayed convinced Qaboos to remain. Now that Abu Dhabi has its own carrier Etihad Airways fully operational and Zayed gone, it sees little incentive in playing the role of main backer and bankroller of this Bahrain-based airline. It is certain that Oman will soon quit, and Gulf Air will effectively land in the lap of Bahrain.
The news is not totally unexpected, but it is sad for two things. Gulf Air is one of the biggest 3 employers in the island, and the bread and butter of hundreds of Bahraini families is at stake. It also comes as another nail -the last?- in the coffin of the hopes and dreams of those who were betting on unified or coordinated pan-Gulf ventures.
Gulf Air itself was in rehabilitation under an almost complete Aussie management for the last three years. Like in the Iraqi case, the hemorrhage was so bad, foreign intervention seemed inevitable. The tales of corruption - financial and otherwise- reached legendary propotions. Every one has his -or her- Gulf Air story. But the company is yet to learn. Just recently, it sent dismissal letters to three employees on the account of their union activism. The head of its Public Relations told the press the three are welcomed to sue in court if they wished to. Not a pretty P.R.
GF Air boasts of 55 years of history. Which begs the question, was it so difficult all along for local talents with competence and integrity to develop and be at the helm? or is it all syptomatic of what ails the region politically?