Bahrain ministry in row with Gulf Air
Manama, January 15, 2012
A row has broken out between Bahrain's Foreign Minister and Gulf Air over his seating arrangements during a recent flight from Kuala Lumpur.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa is said to be so dissatisfied that he has issued a memo to ministry staff urging them not to fly with the country's national carrier.
The alleged wrangle began when flight GF283 to Bahrain was delayed for technical reasons.
Passengers, including Shaikh Khalid, were put up in a nearby hotel overnight and were accommodated on another flight the following day.
However, disputes arose when the minister was not given his preferred seat, A1, in the Falcon Gold Cabin when he boarded the flight.
Following his persistence, he was told by the chief flight attendant and later the captain that he could not have the seat as it had been booked in advance by a fully paying customer, according to sources.
The minister had to then be seated elsewhere in the cabin, which accommodated eight people that day including Bahrainis, Saudis and an American.
It is said he immediately sent his office a fax to inform all ministry employees, via a memo, not to use the airline.
"The ministry would like to inform its entire staff about the decision to stop all dealings with Gulf Air until further notice," read the memo which was sent out on January 8.
However, Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Abdulla Abdullatif Abdulla down-played the claims yesterday, saying the move was an administrative call.
"It's more of an administrative decision and has nothing to do with this," he told the GDN.
"The protocol directorate would give a clearer answer to this." No other officials were available to comment.
Meanwhile, Gulf Air said yesterday it hoped the news of shunning the airline was not true. "We just heard about this and sincerely hope it is not the case," said a spokeswoman.
It followed an attempt by the airline to get more government support by offering discounted tickets to Bahraini diplomats.
A letter addressed to Shaikh Khalid from Gulf Air in November revealed plans of an agreement to offer the tickets to ambassadors, consulate staff and their families.
"We value the role embassies and consulates play outside of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to ensure they carry out their important tasks, we want to increase co-operation between the airline and ministry," read the letter.
"We are prepared to offer ambassadors, consulate heads, members of staff and their families with diplomatic passports with a 50 per cent discount on international fares or a 25 per cent discount on market prices, whichever is lower.
"This is in addition to the annual tickets given to them by the ministry. Ambassadors and consulate heads will also receive the Golden Club membership card."
It is unclear whether the ministry signed an agreement with the airline. – TradeArabia News Service
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