Gulf Air has appointed Captain Waleed Al Alawi as CEO following a nearly two-year-long stint as acting leader. Al Alawi began his career at the airline in 1980, progressing to Captain and later departing for Bahrain Royal Flight. The appointment makes him the first Gulf Air CEO to join from within the carrier, an important step.

Officially in the role

In September 2020, then-CEO Krešimir Kučko stepped from his role at Gulf Air, with the carrier bringing in Captain Waleed Al Alawi as acting CEO. Fast-forward two years and the Bahraini flag carrier has made the appointment permanent, highlighting Al Alawi’s service since 2017 in turning around the airline into the powerhouse it is today.

Things are unlikely to change, given Al Alawi has been in post for two years and appointed a new senior management team last year. After becoming training captain at Gulf Air in 1999, Al Alawi moved to Bahrain Royal Flight for 18 years, returning to the airline in 2017, leading the ’boutique strategy’ in 2018, and quickly being promoted to deputy CEO.

Gulf Air Acting Chief Executive Officer Waleed Al Alawi

Photo: Gulf Air

Indeed, Al Alawi’s boutique strategy has paid off well for Gulf Air, with its Boeing 787 product quickly becoming a favorite in the region despite lacking the space of its competitors. Combined with a modern narrowbody fleet and new airport terminals in Bahrain, Gulf Air’s rise in the last five years has been astronomical.

In a statement, H.E. Mr. Zayed R. Alzayani, Chairman to the Board of Directors at Gulf Air, said,

“We are delighted to make this announcement and proud to add that Captain Al Alawi is the First Gulf Air CEO to have started his career with Gulf Air as a Cadet Pilot and reached all the way to the helm of the company. We are confident that his knowledge and experience will take the company to newer heights and wish him all the best in his new challenge.”

On an expansion path

Gulf Air is the oldest airline in the Middle East, having been founded in 1950. However, 70 years later, a lot has changed in the region, which is home to some of the biggest and best-known carriers, such as Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Emirates. In this crowded market, Gulf Air has decided to brand itself as a modern and unique offering, a decision that has paid off.

The rebranding is combined with a rapid increase in destinations since 2015. With a fleet of 33 aircraft, consisting solely of the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 787, Gulf Air is focused on Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. Recent months have seen flights to Nice, Manchester, and Ras Al Khaimah as the airline targets (relatively) smaller markets as well.

GF Fleet

Photo: Gulf Air

While 2020 and 2021 saw capacity fall by over 51, things have recovered quickly in 2022, with available seat kilometers (ASKs) almost at 90% of pre-COVID levels. As new Dreamliners and the A321LR joins the fleet, expect to see this boutique airline continue to grow from its home in Bahrain City.

What do you think about Gulf Air? Let us know in the comments.


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