U.S., Bahrain Set Summer 2024 Target For Nonstop Flights

antony blinken and Bahrain's Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa signing agreement

Bahrain's Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sign a security integration and prosperity agreement at the U.S. State Department on Sept. 13, 2023, in Washington, DC. 

Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

The U.S. FAA will begin work with the Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority this month to prepare for a safety assessment that is hoped will pave the way for direct flights between the two countries.

The announcement was made by the White House during a visit to Washington by Bahrain’s prime minister, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, that saw the countries sign a security and economic agreement.

The U.S. and Bahrain have set a target of launching air service by summer 2024, which would become the first nonstop scheduled passenger flights between the nations in more than 27 years.

Bahrain’s flag-carrier Gulf Air previously offered a direct connection from Bahrain International Airport to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) until early 1997, but the U.S. has remained absent from the airline’s network ever since.

However, the carrier has been working to resume U.S. service in recent years and in December 2022 filed an application with the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT), requesting a foreign air carrier permit and exemption authority to operate scheduled and charter services using Boeing 787-9s.

At the time of the request, the state-owned carrier said it wanted to offer passenger, freight and mail flights between the countries under the full extent of the U.S.-Bahrain air transport agreement, which has been in place since May 1999.

According to data provided by the DOT, Gulf Air previously served JFK from July 1994 to February 1997. Various routes to the U.S. city were offered during that time, including nonstop flights from Bahrain, as well as one-stop options via Abu Dhabi; Doha, Qatar; and Larnaca, Cyprus.

According to Sabre Market Intelligence data, O&D traffic between the U.S. and Bahrain totaled 71,000 two-way passengers in 2022, compared with 104,400 in 2019 before the pandemic. Bahrain-Washington D.C. was the largest market in 2022, with 8,100 two-way passengers, followed by Bahrain-New York with 7,000 two-way passengers.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.