In conversation with… Krešimir Kučko, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf Air

Next week, the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Middle East and Africa Aviation Summit will take place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre (DICEC), formerly the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

Among the high-profile speakers at the event is Krešimir Kučko, CEO of Gulf Air, and whom will be part of the Spotlight on the Middle East – Middle East Carriers and Outlook for 2019/2020 panel session that takes place on the morning of 29-Apr-2019. The Blue Swan Daily spoke to him recently to find out more about what attendees can expect to learn from the session.

Q) Tell us about your career and how you came to work in the industry?
“I joined the aviation world in 1992, and was privileged enough to play an active role in building a new airline in Croatia. 1992 was of course the war, which made for extremely challenging times. Before becoming a CEO, and during my first years in the industry, I was predominantly involved in the commercial side of things. By things, I mean almost everything other than actually flying and repairing the aircraft! I was a sales manager, and a country manager, I worked on new markets, and became passionate about the industry. It excited me. Before joining I had never been that boy who dreamt of becoming pilot, or being around planes but I have always been fully committed to all that I do. I saw an ad in the newspaper and in the shortest time I became addicted for life. I have lived in four different countries and been CEO in two of them. The most attractive part I feel, is an innate sense of belonging. You really are part of the global aviation family. The honour of being part of establishments such as different associations and chambers. We all seem to know each other, or of each other and this makes for the best kind of communication. A language we all know how to speak. My life and career in now firmly embedded in the airline business. I worked my way up from junior roles to CEO or a major airline. I am proud to accept the impact I had in the restructure of Croatia Airlines. Taking it from the red, back to being a profitable company. Now at Gulf Air we are in the process of transforming and restructuring the company, implementing the Boutique concept. This will resulting in a unique premium service for our customer and at the same time proudly promoting the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

“The most attractive part I feel, is an innate sense of belonging. You really are part of the global aviation family… We all seem to know each other, or of each other and this makes for the best kind of communication. A language we all know how to speak.”
Krešimir Kučko, CEO, Gulf Air

Q) What message would you like delegates to take away from your session?
“The dynamics in the region are changing for airlines of all types, whether legacy or hybrid. We should see further rationalisation across the region and beyond in terms of network, fleet types and partnerships (at all levels). This is not driven simply by the increasing competition but the very fundamental to drive a sustainable and profitable airline. Likewise, the competitive (Indian/Chinese carriers), financial (oil price), operational (shortage of pilots), political (regional security/airspace) and regulatory (transport agreements issues with EU) challenges are ever present and airlines need to combine a clear strategy with nimbleness and flexibility to adjust where and when it is required. Challenges and competition in the airline industry will always remain – but this should not and will not dampen the opportunity, the innovation and satisfaction that this industry will brings to us as employees, our customers, being an economic engine for our local economies and connecting the region to the world.”

Q) What are the biggest challenges you have faced over the past year?
“Ensuring that we are on top of controlling costs, in particular with the oil price and in the short term inducting new aircraft into our fleet. Trying to satisfy a customer base that is hard to please but one which deserves to be pleased. Translating a corporate strategy into a clear and actionable set of actions across all business units. But now with a strong management team in place, the vision and direction is clear and the results reflect this.”

Q) What challenges do your forecast for the coming year?
“I believe the underlying challenges remain the same, year in year out, just the emphasise, and focus shifts. Growing competition from Indian airlines with sizeable narrow-bodied aircraft orders that have range well into GCC and ME region and beyond. Overcapacity remains with more supply of seats than demand, and downward pressure on price. Customers have more travel options and more savvy, airlines must recognise, respect and respond accordingly or they will lose the customer. Political uncertainties remain, which impacts access to certain markets and/or makes flying more expensive to circumvent restricted or unsafe airspace.”

Q) What is the best innovation you have seen recently?
“It is difficult to pinpoint a single innovation – rather amazing how industry has either embraced/adopted innovations and best practice from other industries – for example merchandising, ancillaries and attention to customer details – or pioneering innovation in inflight entertainment, seat concepts and designs. But if I had to choose one … (something funny i.e. not serious) e.g. YouTube videos on how to make and wear a perfect tie.”

Q) What do you like best about CAPA summits?
“CAPA is one of the great forum to exchange and discuss pertinent contemporary issues and trends, offering countless opportunities to rub shoulders and network with peers and leaders in the industry. It’s a platform to learn and not simply to give advice. CAPA provides abundant opportunity to reach the wider airline community and is a truly fantastic work and achievement.”